Good Bills this Session — Really

When I mentioned to our editorial committee at the Pacific Research Institute that I was going to work on a blog on good bills out of California’s recent legislative session, Kerry Jackson joked that I needed fewer than 100 words to cover that topic. After a few hours of hunting and a little help from friends, I did manage to turn up a few good ones:

CA Small Businesses Get Relief from COVID-19

Gov. Newsom last week signed into law several bills to help small businesses get back on their feet. In AB 1577, California business owners who received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds will not have to pay state taxes on these forgivable loans. After being forced to shutter their businesses, paying taxes on these funds would have added insult to injury.  Tax credits will also be offered to California companies with fewer than 100 employees that saw at least a 50 percent drop in gross receipts due to COVID-19. These businesses will receive a $1,000 tax credit for each employee hired between July and November, up to $100,000 per business. Before COVID-19, California was already among the toughest states to do business, and the pandemic made it worse.  Some modest tax breaks to small business owners will help provide much needed relief.

More Freelancers Exempt from AB 5

AB 2257 exempts musicians, freelance writers, photographers, and translators from AB 5, the now infamous state law that outlawed many independent contractor jobs in the state. All total, the bill would exempt about two dozen professions — mostly in the creative fields.  AB 5 would have “single handedly crashed the California music economy,” said Ari Herstand, an L.A. musician.  It also resulted in companies firing California-based freelancers and hiring out-of-staters to fill the jobs.  “This is one of the most disastrous pieces of legislation we could have ever put forward and that the governor could have ever signed,” said GOP Sen. Melissa Melendez.  While this “fix it” bill provides relief for some professions, to save their jobs, ride-sharing drivers’ have to wait for the results of Prop. 22 on the November ballot.

More Autonomy for Nurse Practitioners

Many Californians choose to see a nurse practitioner for many routine medical conditions, rather than a physician. The advantage: they get in the door faster and it’s often less expensive. Under the current law, a nurse practitioner must be supervised by a doctor, but AB 890 lifts that requirement.  Always cautious when it comes to deregulation, even the Los Angeles Times editorial board agrees with AB 890, “Unleashing the more than 20,000 nurse practitioners licensed in California can not only help plug that gap [primary medical care] but also increase diversity and provide a career path for more Californians eager to make their way into the healthcare industry.”  The COVID-19 pandemic exposed many weaknesses in our health care system, one being the shortage of primary care doctors.  AB 890 frees nurse practitioners to serve even more Californians.

Eliminating Filing Fees for Non-Profits

SB 934, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Hills), will eliminate the $25 filing fee paid by non-profits applying for a state tax exemption. It will also remove the $10 filing fee for annual informational returns paid by tax-exempt organizations as well as a $25 late fee.  While this might not sound like much, don’t forget there’s all the paperwork that goes with it.  PRI has paid thousands of dollars over the years to states nationwide for various fees, including state registration fees.  Believe it or not, the regulations and paperwork are so onerous that there’s a growing cottage industry that helps non-profits sort it all out (which cost money, too). This is going to be a tough fundraising year for non-profits, and every little bit helps.

Microchips for Coco and Fifi

SB 573 sponsored by Sen. Ling Ling Chang, (R-Diamond Bar), requires dogs and cats to have microchips before leaving animal shelters. As readers know, Right by the Bay doesn’t take regulation lightly, especially if the added cost might be a burden for struggling families. But unlike past bills, this one contains an economic hardship exemption giving new owners access to rescue groups that can help with the bills and other low-cost services.

So, take that Kerry – I got 700 words.

Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute. 

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

USC Football Players Urge Gov. Newsom To Allow Them To Play

On Tuesday, the entire University of Southern California (USC) football team sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, urging him to allow them to play this season as other college conference holdouts announced they were returning to play this year.

“We want to play”

In the letter posted to Twitter by USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, the USC players accused the state of having too many restrictions preventing them from playing, despite the NCAA Division I football season having already started with no major COVID-19 outbreaks or known transmissions.

“The reason we are writing this appeal directly to you is that the state of California and its legislators have been the staunchest advocates for student-athlete rights,” began the letter “Over the last few months, athletics departments across the country have started listening to the voices of their student-athletes. It is a credit to your leadership that the state of California has been listening to our voices for years, and we are counting on you to hear us now: we want to play.

“The current reality is that there are too many restrictions imposed by state and local public health officials in California that prevent us from returning to practiced and competitions.”

The players even pointed out the stringent measures and rapid testing the University has deployed, which has gone above and beyond other teams already playing.

“Daily Antigen testing with a turnaround time of less than one hour reduces COVID-19 infectiousness by 100%, continued the letter. “With the Pac-12’s commitment to daily testing … and the continued dedication to comprehensive health and safety protocols locally on our campus, we feel comfortable proceeding with the season. We are fortunate to receive a level of care from our school that achieves the highest standard in sports.”

NFL dreams, health needs, potential billions on the line

The letter was sent that the same day that the only other premier college football division, the Big 10, announced that they would be returning in October. The decision left the Pac-12 without a season as many Western Governors, including Governor Newsom, continue to push for advanced COVID-19 measures.

“Scholarships aren’t on the line, but NFL dreams sure are,” explained college football scout Joey Warner to the Globe. “The Pac-12 in the last major holdout. And if the players don’t play this year, the players looking to get into the NFL draft in the next few years are going to miss vital tape of their play and a critical season for NFL teams to look at. It’s hard enough with high school closures disrupting us from looking at them for prospective colleges. These players careers and livelihoods are now on the line.

“These athletes care about COVID-19 and not infecting others. But with these universities putting all the proper pieces into place, and the state still not allowing them to go on, you can see their frustration. They want to play to compete and go for their dream of the NFL. Plus fans want them back in action. But right now, that’s not happening, and they’re doing everything they can, including writing the Governor, to play this year so they don’t fall behind everyone else.”

“Colleges are antsy too. The NCAA brings in billions each year combined for schools in straight revenue. And these programs aren’t cheap, so they need to play to at least get money back from TV contracts and partial admission. Some have already preemptively cut some athletics because of budget issues. In some cases, they may be fighting to actually keep their team.”

Health experts have remained divided on what danger COVID-19 presents to NCAA players. The Pac-12 has specifically cited cardiac risks associated with COVID-19 as a major factor in not playing this year. However, the Big 10 also cited that last month and still chose to start play soon regardless.

“People are reaching different conclusions,” added Warner. “This is just adding confusion over the risk here. We’ll know for sure in a few weeks if cases among players and even fans being allowed in jumps up. But the question now is where that line of risk stands.”

An urgent plea from USC players

For the USC players, they not only feel that enough precautions have taken place on campus, but that they can also form some sort of agreement or arrangement to play.

“Governor Newsom, our request of you is that you work with us to find a path forward to resume competitions later this fall so that we can have the same opportunity as other teams around the country to play for a national championship,” said the players in the letter. “We have the utmost confidence that we can partner together to quickly develop a plan that allows us to compete in a 2020 football season. Please let us play.

“As California goes, so too does the Pac-12 Conference,” the letter states. “You can be the champion for the conference of champions and, most importantly, its student-athletes. We believe that if the state of California endorses our season, the conference, other states, respective county and public health officials, and university leaders will follow.”As of Wednesday, the Pac-12 has been under greater pressure to resume their college football season as more teams and players have been ramping up support to play. With the NCAA football season expected to end in mid-December, a decision is needed in the next few weeks to allow players to resume practices and begin an abbreviated season no later than October.

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked.

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

If the Texas Economic Miracle Can’t Figure Out Renewables – Neither Can California

Any electrical grid relying on renewables (mainly wind turbines and solar panels) electricity prices can rise as much as 40,000% in Texas, and blackouts are inevitable. From New York to Great Britain – and now California – blackouts happen over heavy renewable usage.  

California’s conundrum is hardly prescient nor is Texas a fossil fuel powerhouse since approximately 20 percent of its electrical generation comes from wind turbines. Texas in 2018 had the massive spike in prices, and their entire reserve margin of generating capacity went away during a heat wave. California now suffers the same problems. More importantly for both, and likely California more than Texas is the push to electrify homes and entire sectors of the economy. Cost considerations alone should make California pause in this rush for decarbonization via the electrical grid. 

Federal data show a $900 a year price differential between homes that rely on natural gas for appliances, heat during the winter, and hot/warm water versus only electricity. The rush for renewables in California and Texas will lead to higher costs in coming years. Approvals for new oil and gas wells in California are up over unstable electrical grids. The Texas economic miracle could be fading if state doesn’t understand the “turmoil and true staggering costs of wind and solar” are having on consumers with limited transparency. 

Renewables are intermittent, chaotic in their production of energy to electricity, and mathematically unstable, but California and Texas both keep rushing headlong into collapsing their grids for reliable electricity. California is rapidly becoming a failed state over green energy policies. To Governor Newsome’s credit he says

“The transition away from fossil fuels has left California with a gap in reliability of its energy system. He says the state must examine its reliance on solar power and how that fits into its broader energy portfolio, report the San Francisco Chronicle’s Alexei Koseff.” 

In 2018 the California legislature passed a bill requiring the state electrical grid have “100% climate-friendly electricity by 2045.” During a recent August heat wave the state’s grid was at least 4,400 MW short of the energy to electricity needed for minimum electrical generation standards. The early summer documentary movie, “Juice” highlights how if a country doesn’t have reliable and stable electricity, they are a failed state. California is meeting that definition, and Texas is following that same standard.  

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is responsible for California’s grid and demand to ensure constant electrical generation. Western states are no longer exporting energy to CAISO during hot summer months, which facilitates CAISO ordering utilities to institute blackouts. Texas will follow California into blackouts, and the economic renaissance will end.

Texas is the largest source of wind generation in the U.S., attracting firms like Spanish energy conglomerate Iberdrola claiming 100% Texas wind to meet reliable electricity for the Lone Star State. Iberdrola has received over $2.7 billion in U.S tax credits without producing anything of electrical value through the Production Tax Credit program.

Utilities in California and Texas are pushing to rid themselves of fossil fuels in favor of renewables, but a recent study from the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment found:

“Among more than 3,000 utilities, only about 14% prioritized growth in renewable energy over gas or coal-fired power plants, while 10% and 2% had their highest growth in gas and coal, respectively. And even among companies betting on green energy, more than half continued to grow their fossil fuel capacities at the same time.” 

California has world-class universities and is the 5th largest economy in the world – yet cannot figure out how to stabilize their electrical grid using renewables. This is why utilities are betting heavily on fossil fuels for decades ahead. Supposedly the “future is bright, emissions-free, and electric,” when actually the International Energy Agency’s Key World Energy Statistics 2020 overwhelmingly reveals a world reliant on fossil fuels for electricity and the over 6,000 products that originate from a barrel of crude oil. California is reaping what it sows for grid blackouts, and Texas isn’t far behind.

California’s “60 per cent renewable supply by 2030,” is at 33 per cent currently; 27 GW of California’s renewable supply is solar, and 7 GW is wind. Both stop working when the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing. The State’s consumers have electricity prices “60 per cent above the US average.”

Grid reliability is so bad for California, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Sunday, September 6th  issued a Section 202 (c) “emergency order to help prevent California’s already-faltering power grid from being completely overwhelmed.” This order was in response to a record-breaking heat wave over much of Southern California. 

The DOE’s order “authorizes the emergency use of stationary and portable generators, as well as auxiliary engines onboard ocean-going vessels berthed in California’s port.” All laws, regulations and permits limiting the use of emission-belching generators are suspended to meet grid requirements for the CAISO.

According to Joel Kotkin of Chapman University electrical grid blackouts and fires are the new California norm unless voters decide to break with the one-party super majority. Then why doesn’t the Legislature address grid breakdown instead of passing a bill lowering criminal penalties for adults who have sex with minors. Heterosexual and homosexual men and women – need on-demand electricity – over meddling in their private affairs. 

Economic forecasters whether in California or Texas have assumed that Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) for renewables would be used within a fossil fuel-based system since they are heavily subsidized due to intermittent output; a “green reset based on green energy isn’t possible.” My own book “Just Green Electricity” brings clarity to a world without fossil fuels. Just the math alone of new transmission lines, amount of new renewable installations, land-use requirements, physics and engineering all spotlight the hidden cost of renewables.

Green energy is also one of the dirtiest forms of energy over mining concerns. Michael Moore’s anti-renewables documentary, Planet of the Humans highlights ecological concerns. Texas and especially California need to ditch green recovery plans in a post-COVID world, and finally admit that all forms of energy to electricity based on renewables have never powered a modern society.

Todd Royal is an independent public policy consultant focusing on the geopolitical implications of energy based in Los Angeles, California.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily.

Mismanaged Forests Burn, Newsom Blames “Climate Deniers”

What we quaintly refer to as “super fires” have incinerated nearly 5,000 square miles of California’s forests so far this year. In response, Governor Newsom has declared he has “no more patience for climate deniers.” But it isn’t climate change that caused these superfires. It was negligent forestry.

When it comes to facts that matter on the issue of our burning forests, perhaps Newsom is the one who is in denial. Because when Newsom denounces “climate deniers,” he denies the following far more pertinent facts about wildfires and climate:

  • The timber industry in California has been cut to a small fraction of what it was in 1990 in terms of employment and board feet of timber harvested. In 1990, 6.0 billion board feet were harvested from California’s forests, today the harvest rarely exceeds 1.5 billion board feet.
  • Dense, overgrown forests result in unhealthy trees, because the increased number of trees are competing for the same amount of sunlight, water and soil nutrients. This is the reason so many of them cannot resist disease and infestations, not climate change.
  • Year after year, millions of acre feet of snow and rain fall on these dense tree canopies and either evaporate immediately, or are sucked up by the overgrown, water stressed biomass as soon as they hit the ground. Far less water makes it into the aquifers and rivers as a result.
  • The overgrown forests are not only packing up to ten times more fuel than what is historically normal, but because these trees aren’t adapted to being packed so close together, half of them are dead or dying, which means they are tinder dry.

Any honest mainstream journalist, if there are any left, needs to ask Governor Newsom one simple question:

“Under which conditions would be a lightning strike be more likely to cause a catastrophic fire: on a grove of stressed and dying trees, dried out and packed 200 per acre, on a 75 degree day, or on a grove of healthy trees, moist and dispersed 20 per acre on an 85 degree day?”

A child can answer this question, but perhaps Gavin Newsom isn’t interested in the truth.

How California’s Forests Turned Into Tinderboxes

For over 20 million years, forests existed in California at a much lower density than they are today. These forests were healthy and abundant with wildlife, and they stayed healthy through climate cycles that included droughts and so-called mega-droughts that lasted a century or more.

That all changed starting around 1850 when American settlers began logging operations that left vast clear cut areas. The second growth forests that filled these clear cut areas had a higher tree density, and this unnatural response to the original clear cuts is where the problems began.

Natural fires, usually caused by lightning strikes, probably would have burned through 2nd and 3rd growth forests, with the hardier trees surviving to restore the original ecosystems, but over the past several decades fire suppression tactics had become highly effective and were aggressively practiced. Fire ceased to be a significant source of natural thinning. Forestry officials and private landowners tried to do controlled burns, but ran into too much bureaucracy to ever do it at anywhere near the necessary scale.

The problems of overstocked forests magnified in the 1990s when logging operations throughout the Western United States came under attack from environmentalists. While logging practices needed to evolve, cutting logging activity to a fraction of what it had been for over a century caused additional density. For decades now, annual growth has far exceeded harvests.

Unhealthy, unnaturally dense forests. Far fewer smaller, natural forest fires. Almost no logging activity. It doesn’t take a genius to know what comes next.

Forestry experts including some environmentalists have been warning politicians about the fire hazards in the forests, urgently, for well over 20 years. But effective forest thinning has been prevented by environmentalist backed over-regulation.

If Gov. Newsom is in “denial” about any of this, he might explain: Why is it, if we knew this was an urgent problem, that California’s forests are still twice as dense, or more, than they were for the last 20 million years?

“Climate Change” Policies Are Misanthropic and Futile

Whenever there’s a wildfire, Newsom and all the others in denial over their epic policy failures, come shouting “climate change.” They have the audacity to tell us to turn our thermostats up to 78 degrees and refrain from using electric appliances, and they claim these fires are evidence of why this is necessary. They embark on a “renewables mandate” that jacks utility prices up to the highest in the nation in exchange for unreliable power.

More than anything else, what Newsom and all the rest of these politicians who want California to set a “climate example” to the world are in denial of is their own misanthropy. They know perfectly well that California only emits one percent of the world’s CO2. They know as well that China and India are not about to stop using fossil fuel to grow their economies. They know that fossil fuel accounts for 85 percent of global energy production, with hydroelectric and nuclear power accounting for another 11 percent. All renewables account for only four percent of global energy production. Four percent.

Although one often wonders, Newsom is smart enough to figure out, based on readily available and indisputable data, that if everyone in the world, per capita, used half as much energy as Americans do, global energy production would have to double. And it will. And for the next 20-30 years, fossil fuel is going to account for a large portion of that.

Someday, probably within the lifetime of most people alive today, there will be a series of breakthroughs in energy technology. Fusion power. Satellite solar power stations. Direct synthesis of atmospheric CO2 into liquid fuel. Who knows? But until that time, the only reason to impoverish the lives of ordinary Californians in the name of the “climate crisis” is so rich and powerful people like Gavin Newsom can get even richer and even more powerful.

Once this horrific fire season comes to an end, there is just one thing Gavin Newsom should be doing as follow up. He needs to figure out how California’s forests are going to be rapidly thinned from, using the Sierra Nevada as an example, 200 or more trees per acre, down to the historical norm of 40 trees or less per acre. No forest management solutions are perfect. But in search of perfection, we engineered a cataclysm. Have we learned? Or will we just watch the rest of our forests burn up, and blame it on climate change?

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.

Progressives fret over Feinstein and judges

Progressives hoping for a Democratic White House and Senate next year are already voicing worries that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who would be next in line to lead the Judiciary Committee, will not commit to pushing a future Biden administration’s judicial nominees with the same aggressive tactics used by Republicansunder President Trump.

As Judiciary Committee chairman, Feinstein, 87, would wield significant political power if Democrats take control of the Senate. She would be responsible for reviewing and confirming the president’s Supreme Court nominees and other judicial appointments.

Fueling progressives’ concern is Feinstein’s refusal to say whether she would give Republicans power to block appellate appointees through a Senate practice known as withholding blue slips. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

California Supreme Court Puts Taxpayers at Big Risk

On Wednesday of last week, the California Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving the validity of a local special tax initiative that failed to secure two-thirds voter approval.

That requirement is found in Proposition 13 (1978) as well as Proposition 218 (1996), also known as the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, both of which were sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Taxpayers had petitioned the Supreme Court to review a lower Court of Appeal’s ruling refusing to apply well-settled law.

The significance of the Supreme Court’s failure to provide clarity on this important issue cannot be overstated.

Unless it resolves this question in other cases now working their way up through the court system, a gaping new loophole will have been created in the constitutional protections for taxpayers that voters have repeatedly ratified over the decades. Moreover, the failure to act is a green light to tax-and-spend interests to extract even more dollars from the most heavily taxed citizens in the United States.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Two deputies who survived ambush ‘a double miracle’

Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies shot in what authorities described as an ambush attack are expected to survive amid an intense manhunt for the gunman captured on video firing inside their patrol car and as the violence became a new flashpoint in the political debate about policing and crime.

Both deputies were shot in the head near the Compton Metro station but went through surgery and are now listed in stable condition. The attack sparked widespread outrage, from the presidential campaign to the streets of Compton, where residents fear it will heighten already deep tensions between police and the community after several high-profile deputy shootings and uses of force.

“It makes no sense,” said Setif Capelton, 22, who has lived in Compton nearly all his life and heard the burst of gunfire Saturday night. “It hurts this community more than anything else. Now, what if someone walks up to a police officer’s car, and they get scared and shoot that person?”

Authorities have offered no motive for the attack. But new surveillance video and dispatch calls provide a more detailed account of what happened. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Environmentalists Destroyed California’s Forests

Millions of acres of California forest have been blackened by wildfires this summer, leading to the usual angry denunciations from the usual quarters about climate change. But in 1999, the Associated Press reported that forestry experts had long agreed that “clearing undergrowth would save trees,” and that “years of aggressive firefighting have allowed brush to flourish that would have been cleared away by wildfires.” But very little was done. And now fires of unprecedented size are raging across the Western United States.

“Sen. Feinstein blames Sierra Club for blocking wildfire bill,” reads the provocative headline on a 2002 story in California’s Napa Valley Register. Feinstein had brokered a congressional consensus on legislation to thin “overstocked” forests close to homes and communities, but could not overcome the environmental lobby’s disagreement over expediting the permit process to thin forests everywhere else.

Year after year, environmentalists litigated and lobbied to stop efforts to clear the forests through timber harvesting, underbrush removal, and controlled burns. Meanwhile, natural fires were suppressed and the forests became more and more overgrown. The excessive biomass competed for the same water, soil, and light a healthier forest would have used, rendering all of the trees and underbrush unhealthy. It wasn’t just excess biomass that accumulated, but dried out and dead biomass.

What happened among California’s tall stands of Redwood and Ponderosa Pine also happened in its extensive chaparral. Fire suppression along with too many environmentalist-inspired bureaucratic barriers to controlled burns and undergrowth removal turned the hillsides and canyons of Southern California into tinderboxes.

In 2009, after huge blazes wiped out homes and forced thousands to evacuate, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich observed: “The environmentalists have gone to the extreme to prevent controlled burns, and as a result we have this catastrophe today.”

In 2014, Republican members of Congress tried again to reduce the bureaucracy associated with “hazardous fuel projects” that thin out overgrown forests. True to form, the bill got nowhere thanks to environmental lobbyists who worried it would undermine the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the law that requires thorough impact assessments ahead of government decisions on public lands.

In a blistering report published in the California Globe on how environmentalists have destroyed California’s forests, investigative journalist Katy Grimes interviewed Representative Tom McClintock, a Republican who represents communities in and around the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California. McClintock has worked for years to reform NEPA and other barriers to responsible forest management.

“The U.S. Forest Service used to be a profitable federal agency,” McClintock told Grimes. “Up until the mid-1970s, we managed our national forests according to well-established and time-tested forest management practices. But 40 years ago, we replaced these sound management practices with what can only be described as a doctrine of benign neglect. Ponderous, Byzantine laws and regulations administered by a growing cadre of ideological zealots in our land management agencies promised to save the environment. The advocates of this doctrine have dominated our law, our policies, our courts and our federal agencies ever since.”

But these zealots have not protected the forests. They have destroyed them. The consequences are far-reaching.

Decimating the Timber Industry, Disrupting the Ecosystem

Few people, including the experts, bother to point out how overgrown forests reduce the water supply. But when watersheds are choked with dense underbrush competing for moisture, precipitation and runoff cannot replenish groundwater aquifers or fill up reservoirs. Instead, it’s immediately soaked up by the trees and brush. Without clearing and controlled burns, the overgrown foliage dies anyway.

A new activist organization in California, the “California Water for Food and People Movement,” created a Facebook group for people living in the hellscape created by misguided environmentalist zealotry. Comments and posts from long-time residents of the Sierra foothills, where fires have exploded in recent years, yield eyewitness testimony to how environmentalist restrictions on forest management have gone horribly wrong. Examples:

“I’m 70, and I remember controlled burns, logging, and open grazing.”

“With the rainy season just ahead, the aftermath of the Creek Fire will challenge our water systems for years to come. Erosion will send toxic debris and sediment cascading into streams, rivers, and reservoirs, reducing their capacity to carry and hold water. Dirty air, dirty water, and the opposite of environmentalism are on full display right now, brought to us by the environmental posers who will no doubt use this crisis to unleash a barrage of ‘climate change did it’ articles.”

“Many thanks to Sierra Club and other environmental groups. You shut down logging/brush removal and had a ‘don’t touch’ approach to our forests. You shut down access roads and let them get overgrown, so now they can’t be used for fire suppression and emergency equipment. You fought ranchers for grazing, which helped keep the forest floors clean. You made fun of Trump when he said we need to rake the forest. Trust me these forest rakes and logging would have prevented the devastating fires we see now.”

The economics of responsible forest management, given the immensity of America’s western forests, requires profitable timber harvesting to play a role. But California has no commercial timber operations on state-owned land. And since 1990, when the environmentalist assault on California’s timber industry began in earnest, its timber industry has shrunk to half its former size. Reviving California’s timber industry, so the collective rate of harvest equals the collective rate of growth, would go a long way towards solving the problem of catastrophic fires.

Instead, California’s environmentalists only redouble their nonsense arguments. Expect these fires to justify even more “climate change” legislation that does nothing to clear the forests of overgrown tinder, and everything to clear the forests, and the chaparral, of people and towns.

Expect these fires to fuel a new round of legislation containing urban growth while mandating suburban densification, with increased rationing of energy and water.

Expect the “climate emergency” to accelerate in synergistic lockstep with the pandemic emergency and the anti-racism emergency. Expect all three of these emergencies to become issues of public health, thereby eliminating inconvenient constitutional roadblocks to swift action.

Misdirected Union Priorities

Meanwhile, tragically, expect California’s politically powerful firefighters’ union to do little or nothing to support the timber industry or rural inhabitants who don’t want to move into urban condos.

As Steve Greenhut explained in a recent column in the Orange County Register: “Frankly, union power drives state and local firefighting policies. The median compensation package for firefighters has topped $240,000 a year in some locales. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection firefighters earn less, but their packages still total nearly $150,000 a year. The number of California firefighters who receive compensation packages above $500,000 a year is mind-blowing.”

No wonder firefighters are overwhelmed during California’s wildfire season. The state can’t afford to hire enough of them.

And when these firefighter unions could have been pushing for legislation to clear the forests back in 2019, where instead did their leftist leadership direct their activist efforts? They marched in solidarity with the striking United Teachers of Los Angeles. The teachers’ unions have done to California’s public schools what environmentalists have done to California’s forests.

If an honest history of California in the early 21st century is ever written, the verdict will be unequivocal. Forests that thrived in California for over 20 million years were allowed to become overgrown tinderboxes. And then, with stupefying ferocity, within the span of a few decades, they burned to the ground. Many of them never recovered.

This epic tragedy was the direct result of policies put in place by misguided environmentalist zealots, misinformed suckers who sent them money, and the litigators and lobbyists they hired, who laughed all the way to the bank.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

L.A. schools won’t reopen till November

No campus in Los Angeles County will be allowed to reopen to all K-12 students until at least November, although schools can begin to offer small in-person classes for children with special needs at no more than 10% of capacity at one time, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday.

The news will be a blow to students, parents and educators who have been hoping that progress against the coronavirus might allow for campuses to reopen on a faster tract. However, the small in-person classes for children who need special services, announced last week, could allow at least 200,000 students back to campus across the county.

No districts are currently required to offer in-person services to students — and officials with both the L.A. Unified School District and the district’s teachersunion have said they are opposed to any full campus reopenings at this time, citing safety concerns.

Some smaller school districts and private schools had hoped to open elementary campuses through a state-permitted waiver process, but Ferrer said that the county would not grant waivers. State guidelines allow for such waivers to help young students who have particular difficulties with online learning. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Sacramento’s Misguided Attacks on Single-Family Housing

“Honest question,” a housing activist wrote to me on Twitter, “since you mention the ‘impacts to all’ of housing policy, what do you say to someone who wants to live in Pasadena but can’t afford $875K to live here (or $3K/month in rent)?”

The topic of discussion was Senate Bill 1120, a housing bill that was awaiting a vote in the Assembly while the clock ticked toward the constitutionally mandated deadline for the end of the legislative session on Aug. 31.

SB1120 was controversial. As the phones were ringing off the hook in lawmakers’ offices at the Capitol, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, an author of the bill, tweeted, “I’ve seen lots of drama over density bills. Never have I seen the bizarro reaction we’re seeing against SB 1120, which legalizes DUPLEXES. Yes, apocalyptic predictions over letting folks build TWO HOMES INSTEAD OF ONE.”

Here’s a tip for gamblers. The war on the suburbs will be won by the suburbs. Don’t bet against the house.

Let’s begin with the question from Pasadena. What do you say to someone who wants to live in Pasadena but can’t afford it?

The answer is: Someone who can’t afford Pasadena will have to live somewhere else, or earn enough money to live in Pasadena, or share the costs of living in Pasadena with roommates.

The answer isn’t: Everyone who wishes to live in a desirable place has a right to live there, and it is the job of the government to pass laws that do whatever is necessary to make it possible for everyone to live wherever they choose at whatever price they can afford to pay.

A wish is not a right.

Now let’s look at Sen. Wiener’s complaint that the opposition to his bill was “bizarro.”

SB1120 abolished single-family zoning in the state of California.

There, did you feel that?

Would you describe your reaction as “bizarro”?

Let me quickly tell you, before you reach for the nitroglycerin pills, that SB1120 did not pass. In a late-night drama, the Assembly stalled the vote until roughly 11:45 p.m. The bill fell three votes short, but the vote was held and they tried again at 11:57. The last few votes magically appeared and pushed SB1120 across the finish line — that is, in the Assembly.

However, it was too late for the bill to be voted on in the Senate, a last step needed for passage. At the stroke of midnight, the bill was dead.

Feel better? Don’t put away the nitroglycerin pills just yet; the proposal is virtually certain to return when the Legislature does.

Judging from their Twitter posts, bewildered and angry housing activists are having a hard time understanding why their dream of abolishing single-family zoning is never going to happen, not in the United States, not even in the “nation state” of California.

Many of these activists seem to base their views on a false premise that every homeowner is a wealthy, privileged, randomly lucky beneficiary of centuries of wrongful actions, as if every owner of a three-bedroom, 1,600-square-foot house is an heir to a fortune that was stolen from somebody else in an era when Columbus was not yet a statue.

The truth is that homeowners of all races and ethnicities have worked, saved, gone into debt and worked some more to afford to own a house. Homeowners pay taxes, lots of them, year after year. Homeowners bought homes in single-family neighborhoods because they didn’t want to live in highly dense communities where people have to drive around the block looking for parking spaces.

SB1120 would have created a right to build four residences for four separate households on any single-family lot in the state of California. Where there was one house, there could be two houses, and each house could have an accessory dwelling unit that could be rented out.

The bill would have prohibited cities from requiring off-street parking or imposing any approval process at all, even if the extra density would have a substantial impact on water, sewer and power infrastructure, trash pick-up, police and fire services or the need for new taxes.

Overnight, someone who bought a single-family home on any residential street in California could find the homes next door or across the street turning into construction sites and quadrupling in density.

That would take away what the homeowner worked and saved and went into debt to have: a home on a quiet street where people don’t have to live on top of each other and fight for parking spaces.

California needs more housing, but the answer isn’t to take away what people have worked all their lives to own. The answer is to tear down the fabricated “urban boundary” that prevents development of new communities in new areas.

We need what former Vice President Al Gore denounced as “sprawl.” California law has made “sprawl” virtually impossible by declaring “vehicle miles traveled” to be an environmental “impact.”

But quadrupling the density of every residential street in California is an “impact,” too. Sacramento wouldn’t do this to a spotted owl. Refusing to build more housing unless it’s on top of somebody else’s housing is a policy choice that California has made.

Frustrated housing activists want the state or federal government to use force against cities that won’t go along with increased density. Gov. Gavin Newsom has already sued Huntington Beach over housing decisions.

It would be a major mistake to believe this is a minor skirmish. Local control over zoning is one of those things that falls under the general heading of “the consent of the governed.” Anybody who thinks it’s no big deal is in for a surprise.

Originally published in the Orange County Register

Susan Shelley is a columnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, “How Trump Won.”