Northern, Central California Suffer Sweeping PG&E Blackouts

Households and businesses across northern and central California suffered blackouts on Wednesday — and are bracing for more on Thursday, as the Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) company shut down portions of its power grid due to weather conditions that could lead to wildfires.

Wildfires are endemic to California’s Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Power lines through forest or brush create additional fire risks.

Last year’s catastrophic Camp Fire — the deadliest in the state’s history, which wiped out much of the town of Paradise in mere minutes — is thought to have been sparked by a problematic power line in windy, dry conditions.

The outages were expected to affect as many as 700,000 customers for several days, closing schools and businesses. In some places, that meant water systems that rely on electricity for pumping and drainage could also be shut down.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board cautioned against blaming PG&E alone, however, listing several causes:

It wasn’t PG&E officials who approved housing developments in high-risk areas. In fact, the utility can’t say no to serving those homes, no matter how great the fire risk. The utility also doesn’t make decisions about how the vegetation around their customers’ houses and the forests nearby are managed. Nor is it the utility’s fault that human-caused climate change has created conditions that fuel massive wildfires. That’s a disgrace we all own.

There is no scientific link between climate change and the recent wildfires, though many scientists believe a warmer, drier California resulting from climate change could make the risk of wildfires greater than it is today.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Brietbart.com/California

California Jail Inmates Promised Free Medical Visits Under New Law

California’s jails and prisons will soon offer free medical visits for all inmates, under a law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 45, which will take effect at the start of 2020, will bar city and county jails from charging inmates a copayment in order for them to see a doctor or dentist. It will also prevent those jails from charging a fee for equipment or supplies that are medically necessary to an incarcerated person.

The new law also applies to the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which announced earlier this year it would no longer charge a $5 co-pay. Since 1994, the state corrections department had been able to charge $5 each time an inmate came in for a medical or dental visit. The fee would be added to the inmate’s prison account, and if the inmate had no available funds, there would be no charge. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Gov. Newsom Signs Bill to Force Troubled Homeless Into Conservatorships

Reflecting frustration over the fact that years of adding resources to fighting homelessness had brought little progress, Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill making it significantly easier for authorities in three counties with 40 percent of California’s population to force the most severely troubled individuals into conservatorships. Those are arrangements in which after judges give their consent, individuals can be compelled to remain hospitalized and receive treatment for addiction, mental illness or both.

Senate Bill 40 was introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. It allows the counties of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego to set up pilot programs under which police, social services and public health advocates can seek to have judges approve conservatorships for individuals after their eighth “5150” or emergency crisis hold within a year. The law sunsets in 2024.

But the driving force behind the concept has been San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who for years has argued that her city needs a more effective way to deal with the relative handful of homeless people responsible for extreme incidents that harm quality of life for city residents and tourists alike.

“We can’t compel anyone to do something if they don’t want to do it,” the mayor told the San Francisco Chronicle last week. “And in most cases, for someone who is mentally ill, they are not accepting what we are offering — which means the conservatorship legislation is going to be very helpful for a small group of those people.”

The ACLU of Northern California — one of the best-funded, most high-profile local ACLU chapters in the nation — strongly opposed the measure, faulting its due-process provisions as inadequate.

Targeted individuals found in need of involuntary detention under the new law would first be given a 28-day housing conservatorship and then six-month arrangements. It provides individuals opportunities to challenge authorities’ decisions in the courts. But the hardline elements of the law were too much for civil liberties groups.

“Fundamentally, care should not begin with handcuffs,” a coalition of groups including the ACLU told Wiener in April.

Counties may not have adequate facilities to use with law

Another sharp criticism was that none of the three counties had adequate facilities allowing authorities to get many troubled individuals off the streets.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the San Francisco-based nonprofit Coalition on Homelessness, told Pew’s Stateline news service that “of course there aren’t [adequate resources]. … Look around the city. If there were beds, you wouldn’t see what you see.” Wiener’s law “doesn’t really do anything but sounds good to the public.”

Statistics cited in a recent Chronicle article back up this concern. It noted that two people who were already in an existing conservatorship program in San Francisco were being held inside of a locked hospital ward because of an estimated five-month wait time to get into a residential facility.

Former state lawmaker Kevin Murray, a supporter of more aggressive use of conservatorships with the troubled homeless, last month blasted the city and county of Los Angeles for inadequate facilities. A recent Los Angeles city audit offered similar concerns.

In June, San Diego County supervisors responded to years of criticism over its mental health and homelessness programs by beefing up spending in the 2019-20 budget. While the city of San Diego has won praise for its efforts to provide shelter to the homeless, it’s also been faulted for its sparse options on care for the mentally ill homeless.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

PG&E cuts power to hundreds of thousands in California to prevent wildfires

Millions of people in California woke up in the dark Wednesday after Pacific Gas & Electric started shutting off power to prevent what the utility called an unprecedented wildfire danger.

PG&E said it cut power to more than 500,000 customers in Northern California and that it plans to gradually turn off electricity to nearly 800,000 customers to prevent its equipment from starting wildfires during hot, windy weather.

A second group of about 234,000 customers will lose power starting at noon, the utility said.

The utility plans to shut off power in parts of 34 northern, central and coastal California counties to reduce the chance of fierce winds knocking down or toppling trees into power lines during a siege of hot, dry, gusty weather. …

Click here to read the full article from CNBC

Golden Staters Brace for a Shoot-Out with the Tax Bandits

Like a bad zombie movie where no one really dies, California’s “split roll property tax” is back. The last time it had a heartbeat was in 2015 via the so-called “Make it Fair” initiative, which was headed for the ballot in 2016. But due to some Democratic pushback, the proposition was pulled, much to the consternation of public employee unions and other leftist tax grabbers.

Now the same bunch that failed to usher in this misery-laden tax in 2015 is planning to revive it in 2020 with the claim that it would raise $11 billion a year for schools and local governments. In a nutshell, the “split roll” initiative would gut Prop 13 protections for businesses, but spare individuals the massive tax hike. Since 1978, Prop. 13 has limited property taxes on all forms of property – private and commercial – to 1 percent of assessed value, and limits increases in that value to no more than 2 percent a year, except when properties change hands.

But the proposed commercial tax bump would be a disaster for California. It would increase business costs, which would then be passed on to others, resulting in higher lease and rental prices, higher product prices, a reduction in employees and the salaries of those remaining, as well as a cutback in overall economic activity. A March 2012 study from Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy showed that adopting such a “split-roll” property tax would result in a loss of 400,000 jobs and $72 billion in economic activity in the first five years.

For those of you who don’t live in California, it’s important to note that the state is hardly tax-starved. As San Diego tax warrior Richard Rider points out, we have the highest state income tax rate, sales tax and gas pump tax in the country, as well as the second highest corporate income tax rate of all states west of Iowa.

Now for some good news. The bill’s inept honchos can’t seem come up with the right wording. After getting the required number of signatures (almost 600,000) to appear on the 2020 ballot, the proponents yanked the first version of the bill in August because they felt its flaws would prevent it from winning at the polls. So they “fixed” the proposition and refiled it the same month. The bad news for them is that by then it required getting almost a million signatures to qualify it for the ballot. Then, a few weeks later they pulled the reworked prop – before gathering signatures this time – and revamped it again. So we are now on version 3… and counting. As reported by Citizen’s Journal, the latest amendments appear to be in response to a September 10th letter from the California Assessors’ Association that criticized many provisions of the initiative, declaring that the measure is “both ambiguous in some sections and overly narrow in other sections,” and “will create significant unintended consequences for ALL property owners, including homeowners and small business owners.”

Needless to say, regardless of all the problematic details, the teachers unions are drooling over the potential windfall.To continue reading, go to https://californiapolicycenter.org/the-2020-california-tax-grab/

Californians Chased Out of State by Bad Public Policy

I remember getting that phone call 20-some years ago while at my desk at The Lima News, which was a sister newspaper to The Orange County Register. “Would I like to come to California to work at the Register,” the editor asked. “Why, yes,” I eagerly said. “When do I start?” I forgot to ask about the salary.

When I told my wife the exciting news, she asked if we were going to weigh the pros and cons of such a big move from our cozy Ohio town to sprawling Southern California. “No,” I answered. “There’s nothing to discuss.” We’re going to California and, unlike the words in the Led Zeppelin song, it’s not with an “aching in my heart.” After crossing the border near Needles, in the 110-degree desert heat, I fell in love with the place and never looked East again.

Like others from the Midwest and East, I had long dreamed of the Golden State. By then, of course, California already ceased to be the magnet it was in earlier decades. The number of Americans who left California for other states had surpassed those from other states who moved here. Immigration rates and birth rates were still growing, however, which propelled our population from 30 million in 1990 to nearly 40 million now.

“Nearly” is the key word. California has been inching toward the 40 million mark for some time but hasn’t reached it. Its growth rate last year of 0.47 percent is the slowest in recorded history. The exodus to other states has accelerated. International immigration has slowed. Even births are lower this year than last year. We’re a long way from the Gold Rush, when fortune-seekers from around the world tripled its population in a flash.

Based on the latest U.S. Census data, domestic out-migration to places such as Texas, Arizona and Oregon has outstripped domestic in-migration for eight years in a row. Anecdotal stories abound. One friend, who we met shortly after moving to Fullerton, is now a successful Texas realtor who specializes in relocating Californians to Dallas.

Another California acquaintance, who now lives in Pennsylvania, helps our state’s businesses relocate. At social events, people always talk about the states where they are considering moving. Recent surveys show that 53 percent of Californians are considering moving elsewhere. Such ideas used to be heresy. I’ve lived in seven states plus the District of Columbia and, quite frankly, the rest of the country seems drab in comparison to California. But, lately, I’m starting to think these California refugees have made a wise choice.

We’ve reached the tipping point, where California’s progressive political imperatives are having such glaring real-world repercussions that it’s hard to keep ignoring them. Why are people leaving? Top of the list is home affordability. The national median home price is around $227,000. The median single-family home price in California topped $600,000.

In Orange County, that median price is around $700,000. In the entire Bay Area, the median price for homes and condos is $860,000. In San Francisco, you’ll need a cool $1.7 million (listed price) to get a median-priced abode (and it’s not going to be special). Our cost-of-living is astronomical in many areas. Gasoline prices are $1.29 a gallon more than the national average. Even California’s notoriously overpaid government retirees are moving elsewhere.

This is the fault of public policy. Regulations and fees can add 40 percent or more to the cost of every new house. Slow-growth rules, and the lawsuit-generating California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), impede housing construction. The state is vastly underbuilding the number of housing units it needs even to keep up with its slowing population. Gas prices are high not only because of our high taxes, but because of the special California-only formulation that limits competition.

We all know about our nationally high tax burdens. Our property taxes are reasonable, thanks to Proposition 13, but liberal groups are gunning for its protections on commercial properties in a 2020 ballot measure. They’ll probably be coming for your home protections next. Regulatory burdens make it tougher to grow a business here than elsewhere.

Recently, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 5 into law, which messes with our ability to earn a living. That law forbids many types of contract labor. But many people don’t want to be 9-5 wage slaves and prefer piecing together various contract jobs. Businesses aren’t going to respond by hiring everyone as permanent workers. This will squelch job growth, especially in California’s innovative tech economy.

We’re also facing statewide rent controls, which will further depress housing availability. And just wait until lawmakers make good on their promise to provide single-payer healthcare. I’ve been to all 58 counties and still love the terrain, climate, culture and beaches. But if I were to get that call today, I’d have that long discussion with my wife before agreeing to move here.

Steven Greenhut writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.

Cross-posted at the Press Enterprise

California gas prices soar above $4

Gasoline prices have spiked in California, soaring well above what most Americans are paying at the pump. In some locations, Californians are paying $5 for a gallon of gas.

A number of refinery outages tightened gas supply in the market. The average price of regular gas in California rose to $4.18 a gallon, the highest level since May 13, 2014, according to the Oil Price Information Service, which gathers data for the AAA.

California’s gas prices are the most expensive in the United States: The national average is currently $2.65 a gallon.

Most motorists around the country are noticing gas prices declining or stabilizing, which is normal for autumn. Gas prices typically drop after the busy summer driving season, AAA said. But that trend hasn’t taken hold on the West Coast this fall. …

Click here to read the full article from CNN

The US Department of Justice agrees: CalSavers is illegal

Anyone paying attention to California politics knows that our public pension funds are in big trouble. Notwithstanding a vibrant economy, both the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) are tens of billions of dollars in debt.

Unfunded liability, a fancy name for that debt, is not the only problem with publicly administered pension funds. Malfeasance and poor governance have plagued these funds for decades.

Given these problems, why would California choose to intrude itself into private employee pensions? But it has. Three years ago, California launched the CalSavers program. On the surface, it appeared harmless enough: an opt-out program — at least for now — that would enroll private-sector employees who don’t have a retirement plan into a state-run retirement savings account.

Beyond the wisdom of creating a new state-run pension system is an insurmountable legal problem: federal law controls private employment-based retirement savings. Such plans are exclusively governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

With the knowledge that programs like CalSavers were pre-empted by ERISA, states that wanted to adopt their own private employee retirement programs hit a roadblock. So they sought — and received — a regulatory interpretation from the Obama administration which, the states argued, granted them an exception from ERISA.

Forgetting for the moment the issue of whether that federal regulation was even legal (a recurring problem for President Obama’s regulatory efforts), it was rescinded shortly after President Trump took office. That stripped CalSavers of its only fig leaf of legal justification.

To read the entire column, please click here.

L.A. Times: California’s Fight for Trump’s Tax Returns a Waste of Public Resources

U.S. District Court Judge Morrison England Jr. was right to block California’s blatantly partisan new law forcing presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns as a condition of appearing on the state’s primary ballot.

In a written ruling issued Tuesday, England said that the “Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act” is unconstitutional in several ways. It violates the presidential qualifications clause and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, and it deprives voters of their First Amendment right to associate with and vote for the candidates of their choice, among other shortcomings. Furthermore, England noted that the argument on which the law was predicated — that presidential candidates have been releasing their returns routinely for five decades — is disingenuous, given that several of them have chosen not to do so. That includes former California Gov. Jerry Brown when he sought the Democratic nomination in 1992 and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in 2000. …

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

California Lawmakers Upsetting Traditions of College Athletics

Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 206 allowing college athletes to prosper from the use of their name, image and likeness.  Perhaps in the end the law balances for some college athletes the potential side effects of the state’s travel ban that could undermine college teams from participating against certain rivals. For better and for worse, California lawmakers are upsetting a century of traditions in college athletics. 

supported SB 206 because it reinforced the concept of individualism, which may be out of fashion in a world based on identity politics.   

College athletes should capitalize on their hard work and abilities when others are using their images and names to create moneymaking ventures such as selling shirts with the athlete’s name or using their statistics to create video games. 

Anecdotally, there seems to be support for the concept on college campuses, which carries along the side benefit of introducing college kids to the positives of capitalism, which they probably don’t get too much of in the classroom. 

The NCAA thinks compensating college athletes is a terrible idea potentially upsetting competitive balance between college sports teams, not to mention undercutting the NCAA’s power. As retribution, the organization has raised the prospect of denying the opportunity for the state’s college athletic teams to compete for national championships in their respective sports. 

After signing the bill, Gov. Newsom dismissed that idea saying, “They can’t afford to lose the state of California. It’s truly a nation-state, and the economic consequences would be profound.” 

I would suggest the governor consider the profound economic consequences of other bills he signed like AB 5 upending the gig economy–but I digress. 

The NCAA could achieve the pushback against California schools without instituting a prohibition against the California schools by tangling with another Golden State law—the state travel ban on state sponsored entities to states that pass laws that conflict with California “values,” particularly on gays, transgenders and others. 

The NCAA could simply schedule all the championship contests in states that are on California’s banned list for state travel. Teams at public universities could not go.

But wait. Exemptions were provided for public colleges to travel to those forbidden states for championship competition. Far be if for the legislature to get in the way over California schools capturing national titles that could open the wallets of donors to the university system. If that happened the legislature would have to fill the funding gap. 

How long the exemptions for college sports teams will last is another question. It appears as a hypocrisy of convenience. 

And what if states on the California banned list decide to strike back and ban official travel to California. 

Are we seeing the beginning of an economic war between the states if that occurs? Are we treading closer to the courts intervening on the basis of the US Constitution’s Commerce Clause?

Some have interpreted the Commerce Clause as affecting a broad perspective of both commercial and social interactions between citizens of different states to guard against retaliatory measures that the clause was designed to prevent.

Whether such a challenge against the travel ban comes forward remains to be seen. But certainly the California legislature’s run at the NCAA is going to unsettle the institution and create confusion for student athletes.

Joel Fox is editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily