COVID-19: The Golden State’s Failing Grade

The website covidtracking.com — started by two reporters from The Atlantic — reports a startling statistic. Of the more than 59,687 pending Covid-19 tests in the United States, 59,100 of them are in California. This represents 99 percent of all pending tests nationally. It’s not because California is conducting more tests but because its tests are not being completed. Over the past seven days, the state has reported results for less than 13,000 tests, while the rest of the country finished close to 720,000.

Even if tests get completed, they are not reported and tracked. Until yesterday, Covidtracking.com was using a county health website for some statewide data because, in its words, “The state has been inconsistent in its timing of reporting.” On the night of March 29, the official state Covid-19 webpage had not been updated for over 48 hours. This is not encouraging performance during an epidemic.

I know someone who has been waiting more than 15 days to get test results. Two members of my family who exhibited Covid-like symptoms and were tested just received results, twelve days later. They were told that it would take five to six days.

The reason for this backlog is not clear, but it is surprising, given California’s leadership in biotech. Three of the Top Ten biopharma clusters in the country are in the Golden State.

South Korea showed that widespread testing to identify potential carriers is one of the most successful ways of combating the Covid epidemic. By the end of last week, the United States had finally reached South Korean levels of testing per capita, with over 100,000 tests per day. But California lags the rest of the nation. The state’s immediate public-health situation is not as dire as elsewhere — with twice New York State’s population, California has one-tenth as many deaths and hospitalizations — but its inability to complete testing efficiently raises the specter of a future intensification of the disease’s spread that could be avoided.

Phillip Sprincin is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online

Trump Victory Transitions to Virtual Events as Americans Practice Social Distancing

As Americans around the country practice social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus, Trump Victory’s army of volunteers is still working to get Republicans elected up and down the ballot. 

Upon President Trump’s announcement to abide by social distancing measures, Trump Victory has transitioned to 100% digital/virtual events using Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other platforms. The transition took only 24 hours and we haven’t missed a beat since going virtual. 

In March, Trump Victory held a Virtual National Week of Training from the 13th-19th. During the National Week of Training, our team held hundreds of Trump Victory Leadership Initiative (TVLI) trainings in virtual settings to train volunteers on in home call applications and ways to continue to engage with voters virtually.  

The Virtual National Week of Training culminated in a National Day of Action (NDOA) on Saturday, March 21st, where the team made 1.4 million total voter contacts in a single day. The National Day of Action was 100% virtual, meaning that this is the first time we’ve had 100% of calls come from the comfort of supporters’ own homes using the application Trump Talk.  These calls not only highlighted the important work President Trump and his administration are doing to combat the coronavirus, but also encouraged voters to visit the CDC website to follow their guidance and stay safe.   

This NDOA brought the total voter contacts cycle to date to almost 9 million – lightyears ahead of where we were in 2016 or 2018.  For perspective, the number of calls made on Saturday’s NDOA alone was higher than any total week’s calls in 2018 until mid-September of 2018! This highlights the immense energy supporters have for President Trump. 

Trump Victory Virtual Trainings in California and CA-25 

Our Trump Victory team is going strong in California, as we have hired staff in targeted congressional districts that are leading dozens of virtual trainings with hundreds of participants – and we aren’t stopping there. 

With the upcoming special election in California’s 25th Congressional District on Tuesday, May 12th, our Trump Victory team in California will be turning all their volunteer GOTV efforts to the special election. 

In CA-25, we are encouraging our supporters to utilize TrumpVictory.com, which has a variety of ways to get involved, including virtual trainings and events taking place in California, and to register for Trump Talk, which allows voters to make calls from the comfort of their own home. 

Trump Talk has been a key component in our successful shift to virtual events as it allows supporters to make calls from the comfort of their own home at a time when it is convenient to them, with nearly 50,000 signups on Trump Talk during the National Week of Training alone. 

Our army of volunteers in CA-25 will continue to use Trump Talk to contact voters in the district with the aim of re-electing President Trump and Republicans up and down the ballot.  

Samantha Zager is Regional Communications Director for Trump Victory.

Coronavirus: Orange County has 56 newly confirmed cases, with three more deaths

Orange County added 56 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus on Thursday, April 2, increasing the region’s reported total to 656.

The rate of increase slowed for much of this week, with the number of cases doubling every six days or so. In previous weeks, the number of cases had doubled every three days. There was a spike on Wednesday.

Officials have said the number of cases is expected to continue to rise as more people get tested. As of Thursday, 7,791 people have been tested, an increase of 520 from the day before.

Asked in a press conference whether the stay-at-home order is beginning to have a noticeable impact on the spread of COVID-19, county Public Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick cautioned not to infer too much from a small amount of data. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register.

COVID-19 Changes the Initiative Landscape

The hard, can’t be waived, constitutional deadline for initiatives is 131 days for the Secretary of State to certify it. (Art. II, Sec. 8(c)) That date is June 25. However, the counties have to tabulate signatures by May 1, although that date CAN be changed as it’s not in the Constitution.

The only ballot measure to qualify is the referendum to change money bail to risk assessment. (SB 10) Three others are eligible based on signatures: repeal of criminal justice reforms, split roll 2018, and expansion of rent control. Those are being held for negotiations with the Legislature and a modified split roll measure is currently in circulation.

There are 22 other measures in circulation. Of these, 8 have reached the 25% signature threshold when they must update their status. It’s pretty clear that the 14 that have not reached 25% have no chance. Of those that have, the stem cell bond effort has reportedly ended its signature campaign.

The other 7 reaching 25% include:

  • split roll 2020
  • medical malpractice (MICRA) cap lift
  • consumer privacy
  • dialysis
  • app-based drivers removal from AB 5
  • plastics reduction
  • sports-wagering from tribes and racetracks

I haven’t totaled up the money spent but it’s big. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the word was that some groups were paying $5-6 dollars on the street.

It’s too early to say that all of these are dead, as some have June-July deadlines (MICRA, plastics, sports-wagering) when life may have returned to normal. But, no amount of money per signature can collect signatures in this environment. Even those who are shopping are running in and out and avoiding contact with anyone. MICRA will likely not make it, as it has an June 1 deadline. The others might get enough signatures depending on when “stay at home” is lifted but, if qualified, are looking at 2022.

Split roll 2020 is likely dead as its deadline is in two weeks. That raises the question whether they move forward the previously qualified 2018 measure, although 2020 changes moved off some opposition. Further the words “tax” or “bond” now likely won’t be strong in November.

Beyond the disappointment of sponsoring groups, huge consulting and ad buys are mostly off the table for 2020 because our world unpredictably changed in two months.

Scott Lay is publisher of The Nooner

Post-Coronapocalypse Pension Reform Checklist for California

In a perfect world, California’s state and local public employees would receive exactly the same retirement benefits as federal employees. They would receive a modest defined benefit, a contributory 401K, and they would participate in Social Security.

Unfortunately, in California, while some state and local public employees are offered 401Ks, and many participate in Social Security, all of them rely inordinately on a defined benefit pension. Far from being modest, even the most minimal examples of defined benefit plans for California’s state and local government workers provide roughly twice the value of the typical defined benefit offered federal workers. And where there’s twice the value, there’s twice the cost.

In reality, however, twice the cost would be a bargain. It’s much worse than that, and very little has been done. In 2013, the PEPRA (Public Employee Pension Reform Act) legislation lowered pension benefit formulas in an attempt to restore financial sustainability to California’s public employee pensions. But these revisions, which resulted in defined benefit formulas only about twice as generous as the federal formulas, only applied to new employees.

California’s Pension Systems Were Crashing Before the Coronapocalypse

Two years ago, and after more than eight years of a bull market in the stock market indexes, CalPERS, which is by far the largest pension system in California, had already announced that contributions from participating agencies were going to roughly double. They posted “Public Agency Actuarial Valuation Reports” that disclosed the details per agency.

At the time, in partnership with researchers at the Reason Foundation, the California Policy Center used these reports from CalPERS to summarize the impact on 427 cities and 36 counties (download full spreadsheet). As shown on the table below, two sets of numbers are presented – payments to CalPERS for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, and officially estimated payments to CalPERS in the 2024-25 fiscal year.

The most important distinction one should make when reviewing the above data is the difference between the “normal” and the “catch-up” payments. The so-called “normal contribution” is the amount the employer has to contribute each year to maintain an already fully funded pension system. The “catch-up” or “unfunded contribution” is the additional amount necessary to pay down the unfunded liability of an underfunded pension system.

As can be seen in the example of Millbrae (top row, right), by 2024, the “catch-up” contribution will be nearly six times the amount of the normal contribution. But in the PEPRA reforms, new employees are only required to contribute via payroll withholding to 50 percent of the “normal” contribution.

A separate California Policy Center analysis, also published two years ago, attempted to estimate how much total payments statewide would increase if all of the major pension systems serving California’s state and local public employees were to require similar levels of payment increases. The analysis extrapolated from the consolidated CalPERS projections for their participating cities and counties and estimated that in sum, California’s state and local government employers would have paid $31 billion into the 87 various pension systems in 2018, and by 2024 this payment would rise to $59.1 billion.

As noted at the time, and now more than ever, this was a best case scenario.

A Financial Snapshot of CalPERS Today

The next chart, below, depicts financial highlights for CalPERS – either officially reported or projected – in a format which ought to be publicly disclosed, every quarter, in this format, from every state and local public pension system in California. The first two columns depict data as reported by CalPERS for their most recent two fiscal years, ended 6/30/2018 and 6/30/2019. The final column, which consists of CPC estimates (not provided by CalPERS), shows how their financial condition could appear three months from now.The first thing to note from the above chart is the fact that CalPERS was only 70 percent funded (“funded ratio,” bottom line) in June of 2019. The next thing to note, and this is crucial, is that the actuarial estimates of the total pension liability lags behind one year. That is, the $504.9 billion reported “actuarial accrued liability” is reported as of 6/30/2018, even though that figure is used to report the funded ratio as of 6/30/2019.

Take a deep breath, because the significance of this delay requires further discussion. From page 122 of CalPERS most recent CAFR, here are the trends for the actuarial accrued liability: 6/30/2009 = $294B, 2010 = $308B, 2011 = $328B, 2012 = $340B, 2013 = $375B, 2014 = $394B, 2015 = 413B, 2016 = 436B, 2017 = $465B, and 6/30/2018 = $504B. Based purely on the trend, is there any reason to believe this liability will not exceed $550 billion by June 30, 2020, two years later? Why isn’t that estimate being made?

There’s more. Why are actuaries permitted to have an entire extra year to complete their estimate of the total pension system liability, when changing single variables will cause the estimate to massively fluctuate? Sure, it is a complex exercise, and at some point an official calculation, based on all known data, should be reported that amends a preliminary estimate. But if, for example, you vary the earnings projection downwards from 7.0 percent to 6.0 percent – which needs to be done sooner not later – using calculations provided by Moody’s Investor Services, the amount of the CalPERS liability soars from $550 billion to $621 billion. You don’t split hairs when you’re being scalped.

And what about the employer contribution (second row of data)? Why did it go down from $20 billion in 2018 to $15 billion in 2019? From the “Basic Financial Statements” in the CalPERS CAFRs for the last few years, here are the totals for payments by employers: 2015 = $10.2B, 2016 (page 38-39) = $11.0B, 2017 = $12.4B, 2018 (page 40-41) = $20.0B. With the payment for FYE 6/30/2019 back down to $15.7B, the trends suggest that the large payment of $20.0 billion in 2018 was an anomaly. But assume that much money will come again from employers in 2020. But based on historical trends, probably not more than that. Yet.

Where does this put CalPERS?

All of this discussion is to explain the reasoning behind the figures in column three on the above chart. What might be materially different? What estimate isn’t best case? Does anyone believe CalPERS will actually break even in the return on their invested assets between 6/30/2019 and 6/30/2020? Does anyone believe the most accurate estimate of the total liability belongs anywhere south of $550 billion, particularly when they’re still using a discount rate that’s too high? And yet this puts CalPERS in what is arguably the worst shape it’s ever been, at 64 percent funded as of this June.

This paints a very grim big picture. CalPERS is on track to collect over $20 billion from taxpayers in the current fiscal year, and CalPERS, while the biggest pension system, only manages just over 40 percent of the state and local government pension assets in California. This suggests that the total taxpayer contribution to California’s state and local government pension systems in 2020 is already up to around $50 billion. And it isn’t nearly enough.

Steps to Reform CalPERS and all of California’s pension systems

1 – Admit the long-term rate of return projection is too high for calculating the value of pension liabilities. Move it down to 6 percent. Increase the required “normal contribution” accordingly, and, in turn, increase the share required from active employees via withholding.

2 – Once a more reasonable long term rate of return projection is adopted by the pensions systems, the goal of pension reform should be to stabilize pension system payments at some maximum percent of total personnel costs. With cooperation from union leadership, agree on what that maximum percent should be, then determine how to spread benefit reductions in an equitable manner between new hires, current employees, and retirees.

3 – For all state and local government employee pension plans in California, start providing consolidated quarterly financial summaries (without gimmicks), using the above chart as an example. Include a footnote indicating how much of the total employer contribution is for the unfunded liability vs the normal contribution.

4 – If a pension system falls below 80 percent funded, agree on an escalating series of remedies to be implemented to bring the funded ratio back up. They would include suspension of COLA, prospective further lowering of the annual multiplier for active workers, retroactive lowering of the annual multiplier for active workers, reduction of the retiree pension payment, and increasing the required payment to the pension plan by active workers via withholding.

5 – Pressure the California State Supreme Court to swiftly hear and rule on the cases Alameda County Deputy Sheriff’s Ass’n. v. Alameda County Employees Retirement Ass’n (filed 1/8/2018), and Marin Ass’n of Pub. Employees v. Marin Cnty. Employees Retirement Ass’n (filed 8/17/2016). These cases may provide clarity on the “California Rule,” which currently is interpreted as prohibiting lower pension benefit accruals, even for future work.

6 – With or without a decisive ruling (or any ruling) on the California Rule, work with government union leadership to revise pension benefits. If union leadership is uncooperative and the courts fail to offer an enabling ruling, than as a last resort, to bring the unions back to the negotiating table, lower salaries, current benefits, and OPEB benefits.

7 – In the long run, move towards a system modeled after the federal system. This would be a logical next step, following in the footsteps of PEPRA. It would create three basic tiers of public sector workers in California, the pre-PEPRA workers (who may submit to lower benefit accruals for future work), the post-2013 hires who are subject to the PEPRA reforms, and new hires starting in, for example, 2021, who would enjoy retirement benefits similar to what Federal employees receive.

The Ripple Effect of Unreformed Pensions

There are two problems with a bullish outlook today. First of all, the great returns of the past few years may have been unsustainable, a super bubble. And then that super bubble was not popped by a pin, but rather by a wreaking ball, the Coronapocalypse. There are tough economic times ahead.

In a severe downturn it is conceivable that annual taxpayer contributions to California’s public employee pensions systems will not merely soar from around $50 billion in 2020 to $60 or $70 billion within a few years. They could go even higher. For example, over the total three year period through June 2020, it is quite possible that CalPERS will collect more from taxpayers – $65 billion – than it will have earned in investment returns – $52 billion.

This is the new reality of public sector pensions in California. And because taxpayers have been increasingly on the hook to bailout these pensions, taxes have increased, services have been cut, and there has been a gradual wearing away of trust by citizens in their local governments. This is why, for the first time in decades, more local taxes and bonds were rejected by voters in March 2020 than were approved. Absent pension reform, this backlash has just begun.

So-called “crowding out” of other public services in order to pay for pensions doesn’t just impel an insatiable drive for higher taxes. It also works its way into higher fees, building fees in particular. Infrastructure investments such as connector roads and parks for new housing subdivisions used to come largely out of municipal operating budgets. It was a fair trade – the city builds the roads, the builders sell the homes, and the new residents pay taxes. But now, all of those costs are paid for by the builders and passed on to the home buyers. The rising cost of pensions can be directly tied to the unaffordable cost of homes.

Pensions for state and local government employees in California are literally three to five times as costly as Social Security, and at least twice as costly as the Federal Retirement System. Ultimately, this disparity divides Americans and undermines what it means to be an American citizen. Why should public employees care if Social Security is inadequate, if they don’t depend on it? Why should they care if all public benefits offered private taxpayers is diluted, or if citizenship itself becomes less meaningful, if their membership within the public sector is the primary source of their security?

America is entering difficult economic times. Maybe one good thing to come out of this will be a willingness on the part of public sector union leadership to make common cause with all of California’s workers, and agree to reasonable concessions on pensions that will help everyone living in this great state.

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe

Expand Pharmacists’ Authority To Promote Access To Forthcoming COVID-19 Vaccine

Private pharmaceutical companies and the National Institutes of Health have outdone themselves.

Thanks to the funding provided by the NIH, a Phase 1 clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine is underway. In separate efforts, Inovio, Sanofi, Vaxart, GlaxoSmithKline, and Johnson & Johnson are all developing potential vaccinesIn total, “about 35 companies and academic institutions are racing to create a vaccine, at least four of which already have candidates they have been testing in animals. The first of these – produced by Boston-based biotech firm Moderna – will enter human trials imminently.”

The speed with which the pharmaceutical industry and public health authorities have worked to develop a vaccine is truly remarkable. The dynamic response demonstrates how a vibrant pharmaceutical industry working in tandem with a focused public health authority can meet 21st Century pandemic threats.

Once developed and approved, it is imperative that patients have convenient and safe access to COVID-19 vaccines. Without widespread access, the benefits from the industry research efforts will be diminished. Unfortunately, many states impose excessive regulations on pharmacists that ultimately reduce vaccination rates and increase vaccination costs.

It is important to emphasize that, as part of their education, pharmacists are trained to administer vaccines. All accredited Doctor of Pharmacy programs require students to obtain an immunization certification, and all pharmacists that administer vaccines are trained on the CDC’s national immunization standards and recommendations.

Each state administers its own laws governing which vaccines pharmacists can administer and the regulatory burden that pharmacists must bear in order to provide these beneficial health care services to patients. While all 50 states permit pharmacists to administer flu vaccines, state regulations vary (sometimes widely) for others. They also vary regarding the protocol pharmacists must follow, and whether pharmacists need a prescription from a doctor before administering a vaccine.

Some states, such as California, empower pharmacists to administer all vaccines recommended by the CDC and therefore create fewer administrative obstructions. Other states, such as Ohio, require a prescriber-issued protocol before a pharmacist can administer a vaccine. Such protocols create additional barriers for patients, and can reduce the number of people who receive the vaccine.

These costs are disconcerting because, in practice, pharmacists are cost-effective providers of vaccines who are well positioned to expand access and vaccination rates.

According to a 2013 review of the evidence from a national pharmacy chain, 30.5% of the more than 6 million vaccine doses dispensed were administered during nights, weekends, and holidays. More than one million vaccinations (17.5% of all vaccinations) were administered during lunch hours (11 am-1 pm); and uninsured patients were more likely to be vaccinated during these off-clinic hours than individuals with insurance. A 2014 study showed that, compared to physician offices, the cost of vaccines at pharmacies were between 16% and 26% less.

Combined, these results demonstrate that pharmacists expand vaccine availability and affordability, which are particularly valuable to uninsured patients. The expected result is increased patient access to vital health care services.

Importantly, the evidence links the greater access to improvements in public health. According to a 2018 study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health,

adding pharmacies as locations that dispense flu vaccinations during a mild epidemic averted up to 17.1 million symptomatic cases, prevented up to 104,761 deaths and saved $1 billion in direct medical costs, $49.3 billion in productivity losses.

More relevant for a COVID-19 vaccine, the study’s simulation model found that the potential public health benefits are even greater during more severe pandemics. Specifically, the researchers found that “adding pharmacies averted up to 23.7 million symptomatic cases, prevented up to 210,228 deaths and saved $2.8 billion in direct medical costs, $97.1 billion in productivity losses and $99.8 billion in overall costs.”

Simply put, by expanding access to vaccines and lowering their costs, pharmacies improve societal vaccination rates, reduce the number of deaths, and generate health care savings.

Since current pharmacy regulations erect unnecessary barriers to vaccinations, the policy environment could inhibit the goal of making the COVID-19 vaccination widely available. For example, requiring patients to obtain a prescription for a COVID-19 vaccination from their doctor before a pharmacist can administer the vaccine, as is the case in too many states, creates additional costs and delays for patients that reduces the potential public health benefits.

Due to the large potential benefits from a COVID-19 vaccine, the policy solution is simple. Just like the flu vaccine, pharmacists should be empowered to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to patients in every state. States can make this a reality by ensuring that that pharmacists have the authority to administer all CDC recommended vaccines without a doctor’s prescription and without any undue protocol burdens.

If history is any guide, the result will be significantly higher vaccination rates, lower overall health care costs, and meaningful improvements in public health.

I am a Senior Fellow in Business and Economics at the Pacific Research Institute and the Director of PRI’s Center for Medical Economics and Innovation. My research explores the connection between macroeconomic policies and economic outcomes, with a focus on the health care and energy industries. I have over 25 years of experience advising Fortune 500 companies, medium and small businesses, and trade associations. I received my Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

State prisons to release 3,500 inmates early because of coronavirus threat

California’s prison system will release an estimated 3,500 inmates early to keep the novel coronavirus from spreading behind bars, state officials announced Tuesday.

The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the first batch of nonviolent prisoners will be released to parole up to 30 days early, while the next group will be released up to 60 days early. Ineligible for early release are violent offenders, sex offenders and those serving time for domestic violence.

“We do not take these new measures lightly. Our first commitment at CDCR is ensuring safety — of our staff, of the incarcerated population, of others inside our institutions, and of the community at large,” said Ralph Diaz, secretary of the corrections agency. “However, in the face of a global pandemic, we must consider the risk of COVID-19 infection as a grave threat to safety, too.”

State officials assured all victim notification requirements will be met. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register.

Intrusions on Our Liberties Cannot End Soon Enough

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had a message for people who gathered in groups over the weekend at beaches and parks.

“We know who you are,” he said.

What?

What does that mean? Is the city conducting surveillance of residents by capturing the location data from cell phones? Is the mayor demanding records from phone companies?

On March 12, my own cell phone received a text informing me that Mayor Garcetti “shared updates about the City’s actions to help protect the public and slow the spread of COVID-19.” The text included handwashing instructions and a link to the mayor’s video.

Because I never signed up for such messages and wondered how the service had my phone number, I unsubscribed. “You have been opted out and will receive no further messages from Everbridge Alerts,” the message read.

Who?

Everbridge is a company that markets “Mass Notification with Incident Communications” services to cities, companies and government agencies. It can send messages that “target the individual and not the device” and “broadcast to virtually any communications device including desktop alerts.” According to the company’s website, it can “reach anyone, on any device, anywhere, at any time.”

With Everbridge’s ability to “specify target locations,” perhaps the company could collect the cell phone numbers of people at a beach or a park. Maybe the city obtained cell phone location data from another source, or used facial recognition technology. Regardless of the method, this is surveillance. City officials should explain the precise meaning of “We know who you are.”

And we’d better put some state constitutional limits on government “emergency” powers before we’re living in East Germany on the Pacific.

Consider a statement made by L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Monday.

“We will be closing them, they are not an essential function,” Villanueva said, speaking about stores that lawfully sell firearms.

The sheriff explained that he has decided to shut down gun stores because people have been buying guns. “Now you have the mixture of people that are not formerly gun owners and you have a lot more people at home and anytime you introduce a firearm in a home, from what I understand from CDC studies, it increases fourfold the chance that someone is gonna get shot.”

Villanueva added that he personally is a gun owner and a supporter of the Second Amendment.

Someone should send him a copy of it. There’s no exception for CDC studies.

Villanueva also announced that he’s adding 1,300 deputies to patrol the county during the coronavirus stay-at-home lockdown, and he criticized the county supervisors for not including him in their press conferences about the COVID-19 quarantine orders. “They should have used authority figures the community recognizes that would be the enforcers of it to deliver the message with far greater impact,” he said.

If you’re not sure where this leads, you won’t have to wait long to find out, at the rate it’s galloping.

The good news is that we may soon see the end of coronavirus restrictions, and just in time.

Like the first green sprout of spring, the cheerful sign popped up over the weekend when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw a monkey wrench into Senate negotiations over an emergency stimulus bill, and then on Monday released a ridiculous House version full of cartoonish political wish-list items.

That’s not how our politicians act when they’ve just heard a dire projection of national doom. When they emerge from one of those briefings, they’re ashen-faced and they vote as fast as they can on whatever anybody puts in front of them.

The resurgence of partisan politics is an indication that the briefings are much less ominous than before.

Sure enough, at the White House news briefing Monday, Dr. Deborah Birx read some statistics from other countries and said, “That mortality data that I gave you should be very reassuring to all of you.” President Trump predicted that we will be reopening the country “soon.”

Let’s hope so. We’ve lost freedom of assembly, the liberty to travel freely, the right to buy a firearm, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and now the courts are closed. We’d better end this emergency before the Bill of Rights is carried out on a gurney.

Originally published in the Los Angeles Daily News

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.”

Pressure Mounts for Property Tax Relief

From many corners, California politicians and tax officials are under increasing pressure to extend the current April 10 deadline for paying property tax bills.

The request is not unreasonable and there are many ways that government can assist homeowners who are under threat of hefty penalties or tax foreclosures.

To date, our political leaders have been responsive to those suffering from the economic shock due to the COVID-19 virus. Many California localities have passed emergency laws against evictions and the state, via Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive authority, has ramped up special protections for small businesses and extended the tax filing deadlines for income taxes. These actions are justified.

But homeowners are hurting, too, because of the pending due date for the second installment of property taxes.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California’s leading protector of homeowners, has received numerous inquiries in the last three weeks of this crisis. One example was an email from Karen D. who told us that she is “a single mother who normally works 2 jobs to stay afloat. Both my jobs have been cut during the crisis. I have applied for Medicaid with no response in 2 weeks. Also property taxes remain due on April 10 with no extension. Since I pay my property taxes separately from my mortgage that means I need to still pay my mortgage and my property taxes with no income … the help is not out there for us.”

Media outlets are beginning to understand the severity of the looming threat that the April 10th deadline presents to homeowners.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Crime Rate Falls Amid Coronavirus Shutdown

Crime in Los Angeles fell sharply in March as the city imposed strict new rules on residents and businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Violent offenses in the city dropped 14% and property crime declined 12% through March 25 compared with the same period last year, according to figures from the Los Angeles Police Department. The department had reported single-digit reductions before this month.

Homicides have dropped slightly so far this month from 15 to 12, department figures show. Robberies were down 22% along with an 11% decrease in aggravated assaults. Meanwhile, thefts fell 18% and burglaries were down 7%. The only categories to see increases were vehicle theft, up 10%, and rape, which ticked up 2% during that time. …

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