Boycott the Oscars? Why Not Boycott Everything!?

oscarsThe focus of the political world will be on California Sunday when several political speeches are bound to take over the Oscars. According to one account, the Oscars broadcast, which lost viewers last year, could rebound over the expectation of hearing these political speeches. Or there could be a boycott of the broadcast in anticipation of speeches blasting President Donald Trump.

That would be in line with the current political strategy that seems to be capturing activists of all political stripes in this divided country: Boycott everything!

When Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank praised Trump’s business agenda, social media exploded with a hashtag to boycott the company.

With Elon Musk agreeing to serve on Trump’s business advisory committee, customers reportedly canceled auto orders.

Boycott campaigns were aimed at retailers such as New Balance, Macy’s and L.L. Bean because company officials said kind words about Trump’s business or trade policies.

Of course, there was the blowup over Nordstrom’s dumping Ivanka Trump’s fashion line which saw counter campaigns to either support or boycott Nordstrom’s over its decision.

The boycott strategy could also find itself in state law if Senator Ricardo Lara gets his way. Lara’s Senate Bill 30 would prohibit the state government from doing business with any individual or organization that assists in construction of a federal border wall along the California-Mexico border. Consider this a state sanctioned boycott.

I’ve tackled the issue of boycott before: In the free speech universe, boycotts themselves are a form of free speech, an individual expressing an opinion by choosing not to buy (or the obverse — to buy to support a business’ decision). On the other hand, boycotts can have a chilling effect on free speech by discouraging expression by business owners and others.

Of course, California business is not unfamiliar with boycotts. The boycott against grape growers organized by the United Farm Workers is well remembered. More recently, some Southern Baptists organized a boycott against Disney.

Boycotts to make political points have been encouraged by Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and President Jimmy Carter during the 1980 Moscow Olympics. A petition signed by supposedly 700,000 people called for a boycott against Target stores after the retailer announced transgender people are welcome to use the restrooms that they identify with the most.

What if all these boycotts were successful beyond the imaginings of their supporters? Some businesses would be shut down. Some voices would lack an audience.

But a major goal of boycotts is shut off debate and that is a dangerous thing. Our great civic divide would deepen because people are not talking to each other.

I still believe in the marketplace of ideas. Discerning good ideas from bad takes debate and discussion. Cutting off and threatening to cut off people or institutions that want to voice their opinion ill serves democracy.

ditor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California Legislature to Make Obama-Era Environmental Regs State Law

CA-legislatureThe Democrat-controlled California Legislature is moving to memorialize into state law all of former President Barack Obama’s environmental rules and regulations.

Democrats in the California State Assembly and Senate are proposing legislation that, if passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would codify the federal air, water and endangered species standards at the end of President Obama’s administration into state law, according to a report by Politico.

Led by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and other Democrats in his caucus, the bills would require California regulators to maintain air and water pollution standards that are at least as stringent as federal law required when President Obama left office last month.

The legislation would not only require that California mandate protections for the 1,276 species currently on the U.S. Endangered Species Act list, but it would also extend state protections to “threatened” species, Politico explains.

The proposed California state legislation would also seek to interfere with the Trump administration’s plan for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to begin leasing some of the 15.2 million acres of federal lands in California to private developers for oil drilling, logging and other purposes. To further frustrate those leasing efforts, Democratic lawmakers are also expected to propose that the California State Lands Commission shall have the first right of first refusal for any BLM transactions in the state.

De León and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced in a joint statement on January 4 that the state legislature’s Democrats intended to litigate disputes with the incoming Trump administration by hiring former Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. as an outside legal counsel, according to NPR.

Governor Jerry Brown warned the incoming Republican administration, according to NPR, “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers, and we’re ready to fight. … We’re ready to defend. California is no stranger to this fight.”

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

California Democrats spend significant campaign cash fighting each other thanks to top-two primary rule

Kamala Harris Loretta SanchezNew figures on the November 2016 election cycle showed that Golden State Democrats continued to shell out substantial sums to compete with one another for elective office. Numbers taken from the California Secretary of State, and verified with Cal-Access campaign records, illustrate how the state’s blanket primary system, which pits the top two first-round vote-getters against one another in general elections regardless of party, has changed election dynamics.

“In the 2016 election cycle, Democrats raised or spent $91.5 million on same-party races – a 69 percent increase from 2014 when Democrats spent $54.3 million,” according to Forward Observer, which gathered and analyzed the data. “The average budget for a same-party race between Democrats was $3.97 million in the 2016 cycle, up 32 percent since 2014.”

For the state GOP, by contrast, blanket primaries have had an increasingly milder effect. “Republicans raised or spent $2.78 million on same party races in 2016, a decline of approximately 80 percent since 2014 when Republicans spent $13.85 million,” Forward Observer added. “Notably, there were no same-party races between two Republicans in either the state Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016.”

Contributing to the discrepancy, Republicans in California have simply run against one another with less frequency than Democrats. Since the 2012 elections, when the blanket primary system began, only 20 of 79 total intraparty races – including those for seats in the Assembly, the state Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives – pitted one Republican candidate against another. The 59 Democrat-on-Democrat races notched over the relatively brief time period have added up: “In total, Democrats have spent a total of $195 million on same-party races since Prop. 14 first went into effect in 2012 compared to $31.3 million spent by Republicans,” Forward Observer concluded. “In other words, Democrats have spent $6.24 on same-party races for every dollar spent or raised by Republicans.”

A wedge effect

The news underscored indications earlier this year that California Democrats could be polarizing on some issues as a result of the party’s statewide dominance and tough competition for limited leadership positions. “Another effect of the [blanket primary] system, harder to quantify but possibly more serious, has been a sharpening differences between the more moderate and more progressive wings of the party, sparking sometimes thorny disagreements that could have been softened had all candidates vying for office run against Republican opponents,” as CalWatchdog previously reported. “In some cases, such as Kamala Harris’ race against Loretta Sanchez, the challenger was too weak to force a bruising battle over political agendas. In others, however, a more moderate non-incumbent drew a clear line on policy and was rewarded at the ballot box.”

“Last year, for instance, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer – a former aide to Gov. Jerry Brown who pitted himself against the BART strike and won support from Chuck Reed, the ex-San Jose Mayor spearheading public pension reform – bested Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, the far more liberal Democrat who initially had been widely expected to win the race to replace outgoing state Senator Mark DeSaulnier.”

National impact

Nationally, divided Democrats have sometimes replicated the pattern. “Former Vice President Joe Biden, beloved by the Democratic base, had the audacity to endorse Barack Obama’s labor secretary, Tom Perez, to become Democratic National Committee chairman,” as Dan Morain wrote at the Sacramento Bee. “Sen. Bernie Sanders, who supports the more liberal Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, denounced Biden’s move as representing the ‘failed status-quo approach.’” But while Sanders made a big cameo during November’s elections, getting involved in the state initiative process, it’s unlikely he or other national party figures will try to tip the scales one way or the other in a close race scenario between two state-level California Democrats vying for the same office.

Still, the next big test of Democrats’ fundraising fortunes in a head-to-head matchup has been teed up for spring, when the special election will be held to replace new state Attorney General and outgoing Rep. Xavier Becerra in Congress. “At this point, 17 Democrats, two Republicans and one Green-party candidate will appear on the April 4 special-primary ballot,” Jim Geraghty observed at National Review. Assuming no contender wins a majority of votes on that day, the runoff election has been slated for June 6.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Increasing Water Supply Must Balance Conservation Measures

In a recent commentary, tax-fighter Jon Coupal exposed one of the hidden agendas behind Senate Constitutional Amendment 4, which was recently introduced in the California Legislature. Coupal writes: “They wish to charge those water users they perceive as ‘bad’ more per gallon than those users they perceive as ‘good.’ The beauty of ‘cost of service’ rates, however, is that they are fair for everyone: You pay for what you use.”

California’s consumers already endure tiered rates for electricity consumption, where if their electricity consumption goes beyond approved levels, they pay more per kilowatt-hour. At least with electricity, there is some rationale for tiered pricing, because when demand exceeds capacity the utility has to purchase power from the grid at the spot market rate. But in the case of water that’s a much harder case to make. Water prices are negotiated far in advance by water utilities.

The reason utilities want to charge tiered rates is so they can discourage “over-consumption” of water, in order for them to avoid running out of water during times of severe drought. What happened repeatedly over the past few years was that suppliers to many regional water districts could not meet their contracted delivery obligations. Understandably, water districts want to reduce total annual consumption so, if necessary, they can get by with, for example, only 60 percent of the amount of imported water they would otherwise be contractually entitled to.

Punitive rates for “overuse,” however, will effectively ration water, as only a tiny minority of consumers will be wealthy enough to be indifferent to prohibitively high penalties.

There is a completely different way for water districts to address this challenge. An optimal solution to California’s water supply issues should incorporate not only conservation, but also increasing supply. And to fund new supplies of water, utilities should experiment with tiered pricing that only incorporates moderate price increases. Doing this would mean a large portion of consumers will not be deterred from “overuse,” and the extra revenue they provide the utility could be used for infrastructure investment to increase supplies of water through myriad solutions – including runoff capture and enhanced aquifer storage, sewage treatment to potable standards, seawater desalination, and off-stream reservoir storage.

The following images excerpted from a spreadsheet provide a simplistic but illuminating example of how reasonable tiered pricing could, in aggregate, fund massive investment in additional supplies of water. In the first example, below, with assumptions highlighted in yellow, are water consumption profiles for a regional water utility district that engages in punitive pricing for overuse of water. As can be seen in the large yellow highlighted block to the center left, when unit costs for water are tripled for those consumers who “overuse” water, the number of “over-users” is a small 4 percent minority of all consumers, and the number of “super-users” is a minute 1 percent of all consumers. Consequently, the utility only collects $900,000 per month, barely 5 percent of its revenue from consumers, from households that are deemed to have overused water.

FINANCIAL IMPACT TO UTILITY OF PUNITIVE PRICING FOR “OVERUSE”

The next example, below, shows hypothetical consumption profiles for a regional water utility district that engages in reasonable pricing for overuse of water. Again, as can be seen in the the large yellow highlighted block to the center left, when unit costs for water are increased by 50 percent (instead of 300 percent) for those consumers who “overuse” water, the number of “over-users” is a significant 20 percent minority of all consumers, and the number of “super-users” is a substantial additional 10 percent of all consumers. Consequently, the utility collects $3,000,000 per month, 14 percent of its revenue from consumers, from households that are deemed to have overused water.

FINANCIAL IMPACT TO UTILITY OF REASONABLE PRICING FOR “OVERUSE”

This is a simplistic analysis, requiring caveats too numerous to mention. Utilities get much of their revenue from property taxes, not from consumer ratepayers, and fixed service fees still constitute most of the amount that appears on a typical household water bill. The utility’s internal cost for water, pegged here at $.20 per CCF, is actually calculated through a maddeningly complex and somewhat subjective cost-accounting exercise that takes into account the amortization of capital costs for treatment, storage and distribution facilities, operating costs, as well as actual contracted purchases from, for example, the California State Water Project. But there is a deeper debate over principles that these examples are designed to emphasize, one with profound consequences for our quality of life in the coming decades.

By implementing severe financial penalties to utility customers who “overuse” their water, electricity, or anything else, state regulators are effectively imposing rationing on all but extreme high-income households. Complying in the face of punitive rates for overuse requires consumers to submit to undesirable lifestyle adjustments including short duration, low-flow showers, low flow faucets that require long wait times for hot water to arrive through the pipes and long wait times to fill pots, remotely administered, algorithmically managed “affordable” times for washing dishes and laundry, mandated purchases of expensive new internet enabled appliances that are ridiculously difficult to simply turn on and use, require regular warranty payments because they break down so much, with annual fees imposed to update their software.

We don’t have to live this way. California’s residential households consume less than 6 percent of the water diverted and used in California for environmental, agricultural, and commercial purposes, yet by far they pay the most to maintain and upgrade this infrastructure. Indoor water overuse is a myth, as all indoor water is either being completely recycled by the sewage treatment utility, or should be. Raising rates causes consumers to under-use water, despite most of a utility’s costs being for the operations infrastructure, creating a vicious cycle of rate increases to maintain sustainable revenues. And when consumer water use is crammed down further and further, the overall system of water infrastructure is progressively downsized until there is not enough resiliency and overcapacity in the system to absorb a major disruption such as an earthquake, a dam failure, or acts of terrorism.

The conventional wisdom in California as expressed in policies enforced by an overwhelming majority of Democrats in the state Legislature is that we must live in “an era of limits.” But this motto, originally coined in the 1970’s by Governor Jerry Brown, is in direct conflict with the spirit and culture of Californians, as exemplified by the dreams they offer the world from Hollywood and the miraculous innovations they offer the world from Silicon Valley. The idea that California’s legislators cannot enact policies designed to increase supplies of water and energy enough to make life easier on the citizens they serve is absurd, and must be challenged.

Ed Ring is the vice president of policy research for the California Policy Center.

After Yiannopoulos cancellation, UC Davis wants to ensure controversial figures speak

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

UC Davis Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter said Thursday he will form a group to examine how to ensure even the most controversial speakers can deliver their messages on campus, weeks after former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos canceled his engagement in the face of protests.

The work group of students, faculty and staff will recommend practices and policies to ensure that speakers can deliver their messages unimpeded, Hexter said in a letter released Thursday to the UC Davis community.

“When we prevent words from being delivered or heard, we are trampling on the First Amendment,” Hexter said. “Even when a speaker’s message is deeply offensive to certain groups, the right to convey the message and the right to hear it are protected.”

The Jan. 13 Yiannopoulos incident drew condemnation from conservatives who said campus protesters were stifling free speech, while some activists said on social media that the safety risks posed by demonstrators were exaggerated. …

Click here to read the full article

The Left Is Partying Like It’s 1969

Once upon a time there was a Republican candidate for president who was reviled and distrusted by a fairly large segment of the public. The media barely concealed its dislike and contempt for the candidate. After winning the GOP nomination, this candidate chose as his running mate a governor unknown on the national stage.

The Democrats nominated their heir apparent but not with the ease that conventional wisdom assumed. A candidate from the far-left fringe of the party emerged, said candidate giving the Democrat warhorse a much tougher battle for delegates than anyone thought was possible. This caused the Democrat establishment to go to “DefCon 1” to smack down the insurgent. The heir apparent was nominated at a contentious convention marked by protests from leftist Democrats and chose as a running mate an unknown U.S. Senator.

The fall campaign was an unpleasant one, highlighted by continuous press attacks on the character and mental stability of the Republican and left wing sniping at the Democrat. Election night was a cliff-hanger, with the Republican candidate being assured of victory only after a mid-western state that had been trending Democrat fell into the GOP column. He won with far less than a majority of the popular vote.

Extra credit and a tip o’ the hat to any who realized that the above describes the 1968 election. The Republican candidate was Richard Nixon. His running mate was Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew. The Democrat candidate was Hubert Humphrey, who defeated leftist Senator Eugene McCarthy at the now-infamous Chicago convention.  Humphrey chose Maine Senator Ed Muskie as his running mate.

The general election campaign seemed to be a contest between the Nixon-hating media and the Humphrey-hating left to see who could set new lows for public discourse. Alabama Gov. George Wallace was the wildcard in the race. On election night the decision came down to Illinois – a previously reliable GOP state that had voted Democrat for president the last two elections. When all the votes were counted, Nixon received 43.4 percent of the popular vote,  Humphrey 42.7 percent, while Wallace drew 13.5 percent.

And the Left went wild.

Flag burningThey had been protesting against the Vietnam War for a couple of years, but really didn’t ramp up the venom and violence until Richard Nixon, longtime anti-communist and therefore object of hatred to the Left and much of the media, became president on January 20, 1969. Hundreds of thousands of people marched, burned American flags, spit on police, overturned and burned police cruisers, broke windows in businesses during their marches, etc. et. al. Hatred of the president was always front and center in their frequent demonstrations and riots. The protesters made a specific effort to push into the spotlight all the hideous, bizarre, offensive-to-middle-America counter-cultural mutations and freaks of their movement. The media, almost unanimously in sympathy with the anti-Nixon mobs gushed and fawned over the demonstrations, covering any gathering of two or more protesters as the second storming of the Bastille and a great day for America.

Any of this beginning to sound familiar? I hope so, as that’s the point.

The Left had their moment in the spotlight for four years, and paid a heavy price for it in the alienation of non-radical voters of both parties. After losing the ’68 election to Nixon, the Democrats engaged in months of navel gazing and soul searching about a path back to power. Their answer, becoming more liberal and counter-cultural, was exactly the wrong one. Non-liberal Democrats were driven from the party. Internal party reforms insured the nomination of the Liz “Pocahontas” Warren of the day, radical “peace candidate” Senator George McGovern to oppose Nixon in 1972.

The judgment of the American people on four years of non-stop protest, vulgarity and violence was swift and harsh.  Richard Nixon, the object of hatred and hysteria from the Left and the press (redundant, I know) turned his narrow 1968 win into a landslide of historic proportions. He carried 49 states, received 61 percent of the popular vote and 520 electoral votes to 17 for McGovern.

The Left and the media had over-reacted and over-reached. The American people reacted by reaching for the Republican Party and its president.

I remember this vividly, as it happened during my formative political years. My first political activity was in 1964 for Barry Goldwater. In the ’64 election the eight “sub-units” of my close family – my mother, father and his seven siblings – were 6 to 2 in favor of Lyndon Johnson (my mom and dad were strong Goldwater fans). In 1968 the family units voted 5 to 3 in favor of Humphrey.

These were all first generation Americans, culturally conservative, respectful of FDR and deeply patriotic. The Left’s vehemence and violent protests against Nixon had a dramatic effect on my family. By 1972 there was not a Democrat vote among them. They were part of Nixon’s “silent majority” and their votes were unanimous for Nixon and the Republicans, and stayed that way permanently.

Trump hugs flagAnd so we have Yogi Berra’s “deja-vu all over again” in 2017. The Left and the media are unhinged, in some cases literally deranged. There are open calls for assassination, military coups and other extra-constitutional means to remove President Trump. As disgusting and disturbing as these things are, they should also bring a smile – at least subliminally. Realize that the excesses and over-reach of today’s Left will very likely have the same effect on typical American voters as did their predecessors of 1969 – 1972.

Flag burning, police hatred, window smashing and unthinking vitriol toward a duly elected president has, thankfully, never been a path to power in America. Angry, purple haired, “F” bomb spewing women dressed as giant vaginas are not the way to the hearts and minds of middle America. And lest we forget,  it was precisely “middle America” – both politically and demographically – that elected Trump.

While the Left parties like it is 1969, it happily appears they are so overcome by Trump Derangement Syndrome that they have forgotten the American people’s verdict of 1972. They have also forgotten George Santayana’s famous admonition, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Party on Lefties … please oh please party on. Wear those pussy hats. Burn those flags. Throw those “F” bombs. Keep those vagina suits handy. It may seem like 1969 now, but 1972 and 2020 are just around the corner. It’s going to be “yuge.”

Bill Saracino is a member of the Editorial Board of CA Political Review.

Thousands still forced from homes by flooding in California tech hub

As reported by Reuters:

The mucky water flooding a section of San Jose in Northern California forced officials on Wednesday to widen the area under mandatory evacuation orders, with about 14,000 people barred from returning to their homes following drenching rains.

San Jose, a hub of high-tech Silicon Valley, suffered major flooding on Tuesday triggering evacuation orders when Coyote Creek overran its banks, swamping the Rock Springs neighborhood. Water at some sites engulfed the entire first floor of residences while in other places it reached waist-high.

Officials said the city of about 1 million residents has not seen a flood approaching this magnitude since 1997.

The gush of water inundating San Jose flowed down from the Anderson Reservoir, which was pushed to overflowing by a rainstorm that pounded Northern California from Sunday to Tuesday, officials said. …

Click here to read the full article

More Immigration Raids Come to California

ICE 2New Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids have rolled out across Southern California, roiling state officials and triggering rumors of broader actions. But though the Trump administration has focused on expanding the scope and strength of enforcement, the current raids trace back to planning conducted at the tail end of President Obama’s term in office.

“Immigration arrests across Southern California over the past week were planned before President Trump took office and could be compared to similar operations the occurred last summer, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said,” Fox News noted. “A decade ago, immigration officers searching for specific individuals would often arrest others found along the way, a practice that drew criticism from advocates. Under the Obama administration, agents also carried out arrests but focused more narrowly on specific individuals.”

Political pushback

But while California Democrats have felt more uncertainty and anxiety around immigration in the early days of the Trump administration, they have also felt a greater latitude to object to federal enforcement. “Democrats have complained about getting little or conflicting information about who was targeted in the raids that have panicked many in the immigrant community,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “Democrats in Congress say Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told them Thursday the agency plans to employ a broader brush in making immigration arrests, armed with a new executive order from President Trump. Democrats and Republicans in House leadership met in a closed-door meeting with Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan to talk about last week’s immigration raids in Los Angeles and other cities, which netted nearly 700 people across the country last week.”

Fraught nerves have spread throughout areas of the state where support for so-called sanctuary cities, and opposition to the new administration, is high. “Rumors that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is rounding up undocumented residents throughout the Bay Area are just that — rumors, according to a spokesman for the federal agency,” according to the San Jose Mercury News. “One of those rumors resulted in an ‘urgent notification’ Tuesday to parents of students at a charter school in San Jose, said James Schwab, a spokesman for the federal agency. Similar rumors have circulated in El Cerrito, Oakland, Richmond and San Pablo. All of them have been false, Schwab said.”

Continuity and change

But confusion has persisted, and not only in California, over exactly how ICE has altered its approach to the current round of enforcement. “Under Obama, ICE agents mainly picked up what they called criminal aliens from jails around the country. But with this operation, you’re seeing these immigration agents fanning out into streets and neighborhoods,” John Burnett reported from Texas on NPR. “And that’s what left people so alarmed. I spoke with the Mexican consul here in Austin, Carlos Gonzalez, earlier today. The numbers he gave me was he says 49 Mexican nationals were picked up Thursday, Friday and today. He said that’s a significant increase over the usual apprehensions of undocumenteds here in Austin. And, of course, that doesn’t even include Central Americans or other nationalities that would’ve been picked up.”

The Obama administration’s official trigger for action, a so-called “threat to the community,” was not always applied by ICE this time around. Jorge-Mario Cabrera, communications director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, told LA Weekly that an unofficial “sense of respect for families and immigrants” was “not always respected” by the previous administration, but did color its approach to enforcement and deportation. ICE senior spokeswoman Virginia C. Kice, told the paper the current actions were consistent with past practices. “Kice points to a series of targeted enforcement actions taken under the Obama administration in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015, which netted 10 to nearly 20 times as many arrests as occurred last week,” the Weekly noted.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Is it time to abandon the Bear Flag?

Californias-state-flagThe Bear Flag, which first appeared as the symbol of the short-lived Bear Flag Republic in 1846, was made the official flag of California in 1911. The flag displays a California grizzly bear which, in a bit of irony, is extinct in California with the last sighting taking place in 1922.

Without any disrespect to what was a magnificent animal, perhaps it is time for a new emblem that more accurately reflects the current state of the state. Let’s consider the Oroville Dam as a more appropriate symbol. It’s large, not functioning well, parts are crumbling and it is putting the lives and property of thousands of Californians in jeopardy. To top it off, for over a dozen years, officials have been ignoring warnings that the now eroding emergency spillway was vulnerable to heavy rains.

Since the dam came on line in the late 1960s, and especially beginning with the first terms of Gov. Jerry Brown, California has shifted from a state that prioritized infrastructure improvement to one that focuses on entitlement programs, public employee compensation and environmental policies that stifle economic growth.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Major Blow to Obamacare Mandate

MedizinHow much difference does a single line on a tax form make? For Obamacare’s individual mandate, the answer might be quite a lot.

Following President Donald Trump’s executive order instructing agencies to provide relief from the health law, the Internal Revenue Service appears to be taking a more lax approach to the coverage requirement.

The health law’s individual mandate requires everyone to either maintain qualifying health coverage or pay a tax penalty, known as a “shared responsibility payment.” The IRS was set to require filers to indicate whether they had maintained coverage in 2016 or paid the penalty by filling out line 61 on their form 1040s. Alternatively, they could claim exemption from the mandate by filing a form 8965.

For most filers, filling out line 61 would be mandatory. The IRS would not accept 1040s unless the coverage box was checked, or the shared responsibility payment noted, or the exemption form included. Otherwise they would be labeled “silent returns” and rejected.

Instead, however, filling out that line will be optional.

Earlier this month, the IRS quietly altered its rules to allow the submission of 1040s with nothing on line 61. The IRS says it still maintains the option to follow up with those who elect not to indicate their coverage status, although it’s not clear what circumstances might trigger a follow up.

But what would have been a mandatory disclosure will instead be voluntary. Silent returns will no longer be automatically rejected. The change is a direct result of the executive order President Donald Trump issued in January directing the government to provide relief from Obamacare to individuals and insurers, within the boundaries of the law.

“The recent executive order directed federal agencies to exercise authority and discretion available to them to reduce potential burden,” the IRS said in a statement to Reason. “Consistent with that, the IRS has decided to make changes that would continue to allow electronic and paper returns to be accepted for processing in instances where a taxpayer doesn’t indicate their coverage status.”

The tax agency says the change will reduce the health law’s strain on taxpayers. “Processing silent returns means that taxpayer returns are not systemically rejected, allowing them to be processed and minimizing burden on taxpayers, including those expecting a refund,” the IRS statement said.

The change may seem minor. But it makes it clear that following Trump’s executive order, the agency’s trajectory is towards a less strict enforcement process.

Although the new policy leaves Obamacare’s individual mandate on the books, it may make it easier for individuals to go without coverage while avoiding the penalty. Essentially, if not explicitly, it is a weakening of the mandate enforcement mechanism.

“It’s hard to enforce something without information,” says Ryan Ellis, a Senior Fellow at the Conservative Reform Network.

The move has already raised questions about its legality. Federal law gives the administration broad authority to provide exemptions from the mandate. But “it does not allow the administration not to enforce the mandate, which it appears they may be doing here,” says Michael Cannon, health policy director at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Unless the Trump administration maintains the mandate is unconstitutional, the Constitution requires them to enforce it.”

“The mandate can only be weakened by Congress,” says Ellis. “This is a change to how the IRS is choosing to enforce it. They will count on voluntary disclosure of non-coverage rather than asking themselves.”

The IRS notes that taxpayers are still required to pay the mandate penalty, if applicable. “Legislative provisions of the ACA law are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe‎,” the agency statement said.

Ellis says the new policy doesn’t fully rise to the level of declining to enforce the law. “If the IRS turns a blind eye to people’s status, that isn’t quite not enforcing it,” he says. “It’s more like the IRS wanting to maintain plausible deniability.”

Tax software companies are already making note of the change. Drake Software, which provides services to tax professionals, recently sent out a notice explaining the change in policy. As of February 3, the notice said, the IRS “will now accept an e-filed return that does not indicate either full-year coverage or an individual shared responsibility payment or does not include an exemption on Form 8965, as required by IRS instructions, Form 1040, line 61.”

The mandate is a key component of Obamacare’s coverage scheme, which is built on what experts sometimes describe as a “three-legged stool.” The law requires health insurers to sell to all comers regardless of health history, and offers subsidies to lower income individuals in order to offset the cost of coverage. In order to prevent people from signing up for coverage only after getting sick, it also requires most individuals to maintain qualifying coverage or face a tax penalty. While defending the health law in court, the Obama administration maintained that the mandate was essential to the structure of the law, designed to make sure that people did not take advantage of its protections.

In a 2012 case challenging the law’s insurance requirement, the Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate was constitutional as a tax penalty. The IRS is in charge of collecting payments.

Some health policy experts have argued that the mandate was already too weak to be effective, as a result of the many exemptions that are included. A 2012 report by the consulting firm Milliman found that the mandate penalty offered only a modest financial incentives for families making 300-400 percent of the federal poverty line. More recently, health insurers have said that individuals signing up for coverage and then quickly dropping it after major health expenses is a key driver of losses, and rising health insurance premiums.

It’s too early to say whether the change will ultimately make any difference. But given the centrality of the mandate to the law’s coverage scheme and the unsteadiness of the law’s health insurance exchanges, with premiums rising and insurers scaling back participation, it is possible that even a marginal weakening of the mandate could cause further dysfunction. Health insurers have said the mandate is a priority, and asked for it to be strengthened. Weaker enforcement of the mandate could cause insurance carriers to further reduce participation in the exchanges. One major insurer, Humana, said today that it would completely exit Obamacare’s exchanges after this year.

It is also possible that congressional Republicans will make it moot by repealing much of the law, including its individual mandate, which, as a tax, can be taken down with just 51 Senate votes.

Regardless of its direct impact, however, the change may signal that the Trump administration intends to water down enforcement of the health law’s most controversial requirement, even if those steps are seemingly small. The Trump administration may not be tearing Obamacare down entirely, but it appears to be taking steps to weaken the law, however subtly, one line at a time.

This piece was originally published by Reason.com