770 New Laws Coming To California

You’d be forgiven for not knowing Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed the largest expansion of California’s college financial aid system in a generation — he did so during the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants’ first playoff game Friday night.

Hours later, it was all over: Newsom signed his final bills on Saturday, a day ahead of the Oct. 10 deadline to act on the 836 proposals state lawmakers sent to his desk. Of those, he signed 770 (92%) and vetoed 66 (7.9%), according to Sacramento lobbyist Chris Micheli.

Here’s a look at the significant new laws coming to the Golden State — as well as ideas Newsom prevented from becoming law.

Signed into law:

Vetoed:


This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

Alisal Fire Threatens Homes; 101 Freeway Still Closed

A fast-moving wildfire northwest of Santa Barbara threatened scores of homes as well as a shuttered oil refinery late Tuesday as flames covered more than 13,000 acres and continued to force closure of the 101 Freeway.

Dubbed the Alisal fire, the blaze has displaced thousands of residents and is threatening roughly 100 homes and ranches, fire officials said.

Firefighters were also monitoring the fire’s proximity to the ExxonMobile facility in Las Flores Canyon. The processing facility, part of what was officially known as ExxonMobile’s Santa Ynez Unit, halted operations following the 2015 Refugio oil spill. The following year, the petroleum giant trucked away all remaining oil stored in the unit and placed it into a “preserved state,” according to the company’s website.

Around 1 p.m. Tuesday, firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the California Conservation Corps hiked up a Santa Barbara County hillside and braced for structure defense. Firefighter Alex Soto said the crew’s main goal was to clear vegetation and make room for firefighting vehicles to pass through, in an effort to defend some nearby ranches. …

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

The Myths Of ‘Income Inequality’

It is an article of faith among progressives that income inequality is getting worse in California. In fact, claims of a widening gap between rich and poor are used nationally to justify raising taxes and accelerate the redistribution of wealth.

But like other urban myths, such as how Prop. 13 supposedly starved local governments, it is easily debunked by critical analysis of the data. As it turns out, while the rich are in fact getting richer, so are the poor.

First, no one disputes the tautological argument that the wealthy have more money than the poor. But policy leaders need to ask some important questions. For example, is that gap actually expanding? How do we measure “income?” If the standard of living is increasing for those at the bottom rung of the economic ladder, does it really matter how rich the wealthy become?

In January of 2020, the Public Policy Institute of California issued a report on income inequality which found that the gap between rich and poor in California was in fact larger than in 45 other states. But PPIC also acknowledged that “current government policies substantially narrow the gap between rich and poor.” Those policies include heavy tax burdens on the productive sector of the economy and massive transfers of wealth to lower-income individuals.

But in any discussion of income inequality, it is important to define the terms. Much of the most widely‐​cited work by mainstream media which “proves” increasing disparity is misleading because of the definitions they employ. Take, for example, the work of economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, two darlings of the left. How they defined “income” ignored several variables that substantially inflate U.S. income inequality. Those variables include whether corporate income should be attributed to individuals (it should), whether after-tax income is a better metric (it is), and whether the value of employee benefits should be counted (it should). In short, the work of Piketty and Saez has been substantially discredited by other economists. But it is unlikely that you’ll ever read about that in the New York Times.

Moreover, even if economists could agree on definitions, there remain many questions about income inequality. For example, is California’s relatively high disparity between the rich and poor the result of its progressive policies? Although the data is not clear on this, there is little denying that high taxes and heavy regulations result in the outmigration of the middle class, leaving the state with many poor (highest effective rate of poverty in America) and many wealthy with a sizable gap in between. …

Click here to read the full article from the OC Register.

California’s ‘Surf City USA’ Beach Reopens After Oil Spill

Surfers and swimmers returned to the waves Monday at a popular Southern California beach that was shut for more than a week after an undersea pipeline leaked crude oil into the ocean.

The reopening of Huntington Beach — dubbed “Surf City USA” — came far sooner than many expected after a putrid smell blanketed the coast and blobs of crude began washing ashore.

City and state park officials decided to reopen the shoreline in Huntington Beach after water quality tests revealed no detectable levels of oil-associated toxins in the ocean. That was good enough for Andrew Boyack, a 54-year-old commercial photographer, who usually surfs the waves in his hometown three or four times a week but has stayed out since the spill.

“There’s lots of guys out, so I figure it’s probably alright, and I guess they tested it,” Boyack said, while rinsing off at an outdoor beach shower. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press.

Special Interests Try Again to Pass Split Roll

Not quite a year ago, California voters rejected a ballot measure that would have partially unwound Proposition 13, the landmark initiative that set off an “entrepreneurial and commercial explosion” and “a second California gold rush.” Supporters of the “split roll,” a tax regime in which residential properties retain their Prop. 13 protections but others don’t, apparently want another bite at what’s so far been a forbidden fruit. According to the California Apartment Association, “organized labor, specifically Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West,” has filed paperwork with the state attorney general’s office to put another split roll measure before voters in the fall of 2022.

The previous effort to undermine Prop. 13 would have split real property into two subdivisions. Residential properties would have continued to be taxed the way they have been since the measure went into effect in 1979, while commercial and industrial properties would no longer have been covered and therefore taxed at higher rates. The added revenue, from a $12 billion tax hike, was supposed to be dedicated to education. Voters rejected Proposition 15 by a 52-48 margin in last fall’s general election.

From its current title, the “Housing Affordability and Tax Cut Act of 2022,” to a number of its provisions, the measure includes a number of sweeteners to make it more palatable – or misleading – to voters. It appears to increase the homeowners’ tax exemption, offer an associated renters’ credit, and streamline the homebuilding process. All of which can be achieved legislatively on their own. Gutting Prop. 13 is not required.

But using other people’s money to further a political agenda is a stubborn habit that never rests. Therefore, the follow-up effort. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, founded by Howard Jarvis, who led the Prop. 13 revolt, saw this coming immediately after the 2020 election.

Facts, though, as many have said before, are stubborn, as well. One that creates a particularly high hurdle for tax-’em-high interests is that Prop. 13 is still the “third rail of California politics.” In 2018, on the 40th anniversary of its passage, and just two years before Prop. 15 was turned back, “a majority of Californians (57%) and likely voters (65%)” still felt that 13 “turned out to be mostly a good thing for the state,” according to the Public Policy Institute of California. That same portion said it was mostly good in 2003.

Meanwhile, 23% said it was “mostly a bad thing” in 2018, up two percentage points from 2003.

Targeting businesses for higher property taxes isn’t the most California thing ever. But it’s close. Policymakers at all levels across the state see businesses as reservoirs of dollars to be plundered, and objects to be regulated. When officials think of businesses, they don’t see in their minds private commercial enterprises, they see units of the state to be used to further political agendas.

In their haste to tax and regulate, they miss, or maybe just don’t care about, the harm done to consumers. Businesses will have little choice but to socialize the higher costs of their operations by charging more for their goods and services, “​​raising the prices on everything we buy,” say Rob Lapsley and Allan Zaremberg, co-chairs of Californians to Stop Higher Property Taxes, “from gasoline to groceries, while also raising our utility and health care bills.” ​​Any business unable to pass on the costs will have to reduce its expenses. This can mean cutting jobs, living with smaller profits, dropping plans to expand, and in some cases eventually going out of business.

The latest split roll attempt might not make it to the ballot next year. But if it does, and this time voters approve it, don’t be surprised when more businesses leave the state. They can take only so much.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

PG&E May Shut Off Power To Thousands Over Windy Forecast

Pacific Gas & Electric said it may shut off power to about 44,000 customers in California beginning on Monday due to potentially dry, gusty winds that could raise the risk electrical equipment sparking fires.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning of extreme fire danger starting late Sunday, when offshore winds are expected to develop across parts of northern and central California. The warning extends to late Tuesday and the strongest winds are expected on Monday.

The high winds, combined with bone-dry vegetation caused by the drought, could increase the risk of trees falling on power lines and sparking a wildfire, PG&E said.

The utility began intentionally shutting off power in the fall of 2019 to prevent wildfires, after an investigation determined the Camp Fire that wiped out most of the town of Paradise was sparked by its equipment. The company filed for bankruptcy and pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter related to the 2018 fire. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press.

How To Slow, Reverse The California Exodus

An unwritten rule of journalism says, “if it bleeds, it leads.” When it comes to the exodus from the Golden State, this rule isn’t being applied.

California had been the dream destination for generations and became the most populous state in 1964. But California’s share of the U.S. population peaked in 2003 and fell below 12 percent as of 2020 for the first time since 1998.

The total population is finally being impacted because the contributions from births and international migration cannot offset California’s loss of domestic residents. As we document in the new Pacific Research Institute study “California Migrating,” the state has been losing more domestic residents to other states than it gained from those moving in since 2010, according to IRS data.

This domestic migration away from California is attributed to quality of life and economic concerns. Rising crime, urban blight, and growing inconveniences, such as worst-in-the-nation traffic, erode the state’s quality of life.

From an economic perspective, residents face steep housing costs, high-priced energy, expensive cost of living, and high taxes. Extortionate taxes and unaffordable housing costs alone turn California’s 14 percent average income premium compared to other states into a nearly 20 percent net income deficit.

Businesses have also given up on California. Since 2008, thousands relocated either fully or partially elsewhere.

Many that have left include “high-profile companies” such as Hewlett- Packard, whose founding is recognized as the birth of Silicon Valley; Tesla; SpaceX; and Charles Schwab, which was started in San Francisco 50 years ago. Mitsubishi, Nissan North America, Toyota Motors North America, Oracle, Palantir Technologies, and Jacobs Engineering are also on the list.

These relocations don’t happen in a vacuum and produce real-world consequences. When successful companies flee, the state loses high-paying jobs, which creates “a huge problem” for the state says Lee Ohanian, UCLA economics professor and Hoover Institution senior fellow.

Four years ago, the Pacific Research Institute commissioned a poll of 200 technology, manufacturing, clean tech, and energy industry executives. They overwhelmingly cited the state’s anti-business climate and high cost of living as reasons for leaving or not expanding their operations in California.

As people and businesses leave, economic opportunities dry up, threatening California’s future and making it harder for policymakers to address long-term structural problems, such as the state’s unfunded public-employee pensions or the needed investments into roads, highways, and bridges.

The good news is that since public policy is driving the exodus, public policy can reverse it.

To make housing affordable, the state should reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). California Senate Bill 9 and 10, recently signed into law, do allow for more housing, those zoning reforms are still limited. Comprehensively reforming CEQA will help make a dent in the state housing supply deficit.

Addressing California’s energy poverty problem requires repealing the state’s energy and global warming policies. California cities should stop banning natural gas and ratepayers shouldn’t be on the hook for infrastructure upgrades from energy monopolies such as PG&E, which woefully endanger residents and mismanage equipment. Gas and electricity should be affordable and reliable in California with more competition for consumers.

Spending changes should address the state’s short-term and long-term budget imbalances. Short-term reforms should tie General Fund spending closer to the average annual economic growth of the state to reduce the boom-and-bust volatility of state budgets. Long-term budget imbalances such as unfunded pensions and outdated infrastructure should be addressed as well, while tax reform should improve the incentive to work and save in California and reduce the volatility of state revenues.

Quality of life problems should be addressed by repealing recent criminal justice reforms, such as Prop. 47, that undermine the safety and security of residents.

State leaders should leverage private charities to help sustainably address the homelessness crisis, with a focus on addressing the root causes of the problem.

Californians do not need to resign themselves to a future of growing economic hardship, declining quality of life, and a rising outmigration of people and businesses. These adverse trends are a direct result of misguided government policies and can be reversed by implementing the right reforms.

Fundamental policy reforms also give reporters an opportunity to, once again, violate the “if it bleeds, it leads” mantra. But this time to report on California’s resurgence.

Wayne Winegarden is a senior fellow in business and economics at the Pacific Research Institute.  Kerry Jackson is a fellow with PRI’s Center for California Reform.  They are the authors of the new study “California Migrating,” which can be downloaded at www.pacificresearch.org.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

Hollywood Stage Employees Union Votes To Authorize Possible Largest Strike Since 2007

A vote by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union, one of the largest entertainment industry unions, voted to go on strike if unable to come to an agreement with studio producers, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture Television Producers (AMPTP), in the coming days.

IATSE employees have been demanding pay and quality of life improvements, pension and health fund improvements, changes to the amount of hours and breaks on set, and setting pay scales for productions associated with streaming services. Many of the concerns have been around for years, leading to the IATSE voting to authorize their first strike in their 128-year-old history.

While the vote included notable union locales in popular filmmaking locations in Georgia, Louisiana, and New Mexico, 13 of the 36 American IATSE locals, including the large majority of the 59,478 members, are located in California, with the largest IATSE local being Los Angeles. On Monday, all 36 voted to authorize a strike, with 52,706 out of 53,411 voting members being in favor of a strike – a total of 98.7%.

IATSE President Matthew Loeb, who has led the union since 2008, has said repeatedly that the the demands are out of fairness and that they were not asking for anything farfetched.

Loeb reiterated his stance on Monday after the vote.

“The members have spoken loud and clear,” said Loeb on Monday. “This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry. Our people have basic human needs like time for meal breaks, adequate sleep, and a weekend. For those at the bottom of the pay scale, they deserve nothing less than a living wage. I hope that the studios will see and understand the resolve of our members. The ball is in their court. If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer.”

“They’ve made it about power, not reason, so my read is that if they see that the strike authorization is passed, then maybe they will return to reason and the bargaining table. But if it’s about power, that’s a problem.”

Other IATSE members added that while breaks and time off were a concern, the more long-term issue was what their relationship with streaming services would be.

“Over the decades, we’ve worked with everyone to hammer out what our fair share, for below-the-line people that is, would be,” Aaron, an IATSE member from Los Angeles for over 10 years, told the Globe on Monday. “When we first started, we worked it out for theater live performances. When movies became big in the early 1900’s, we then worked with them. Same with the advent of TV in the mid 20th century. Same with internet productions starting in the late 90’s. But streaming, which is the new thing, is kind of a hybrid of all of them and is an entirely new thing that we’re still working out things like residuals.”

“It’s great we’re fighting for more breaks and things, but if we’re looking at the long-term future, it’s streaming we need work on and hammer down what’s fair.”

“This isn’t us, you know, screaming about socialism or whatever. This is simply a new format for a product that we haven’t worked out yet, as well as some quality of life issues.”

A looming nationwide strike that would hit California the hardest

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Motion Picture Television Producers which recently ramped up TV and Movie productions both in California and the rest of the country, is doing everything to avoid a strike as they don’t want to return to COVID-19 production levels when nothing was being made.

“We just got back on track,” an anonymous AMPTP member told the Globe on Monday. “We’re bringing back productions and we are actually bringing back jobs to California. New hires out here are either local or we’re attracting people out of state. You wouldn’t believe how many have been fleeing Texas for production jobs out here and in New Mexico after the abortion bill there passed. A few places out in Austin actually called one of the companies I’m with and asked them to stop taking people from them. What other industry in California can you say is doing the same?”

“But that is now all on the line with this strike. There are some legitimate grievances there, but it’s nothing that couldn’t be worked out otherwise. But they’ve been asking for more and more. We talked with some IATSE members, asked what they wanted, and then proposed those solutions, like having less hours by working through lunch. But it just hasn’t worked. Now they are putting everything into jeopardy. The recovery of the studios, tens of thousands of jobs, stopping a major industry in California, and so much more.”

In a statement, the AMPTP echoed the concern: “The AMPTP remains committed to reaching an agreement that will keep the industry working. “We deeply value our IATSE crew members and are committed to working with them to avoid shutting down the industry at such a pivotal time, particularly since the industry is still recovering from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. A deal can be made at the bargaining table, but it will require both parties working together in good faith with a willingness to compromise and to explore new solutions to resolve the open issues.”

While talks have been ongoing since May, but stalled, the added threat of a strike has made both sides more hopeful of a solution being reached soon, with both sides set to meet on Tuesday.

Should no agreement be reached, the IATSE would begin the first major Hollywood strike since the 2007-2008 Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) strike, which lasted for a total of 100 days.

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.

California Business Owners Sue Gov. Newsom Over the Lockdowns

“[The police] asked me, are you knowingly going against Gavin Newsom’s orders? And I said, ‘Yes,'” says Annie Rammel, co-owner of the Oak and Elixir restaurant in the San Diego County beach town of Carlsbad, which was the site of mass disobedience of statewide lockdown orders in 2020.

On December 3, 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered all California restaurants to stop serving customers in person and to convert their businesses to takeout only. It was the third shutdown order of the pandemic. Rammel had decided that enough was enough.

“When the same person that’s telling you and restricting you from being open is going to a restaurant himself and eating inside, not six feet apart, it puts a little fire in you to say… this isn’t right,” Rammel tells Reason, referring to photos capturing Newsom dining indoors unmasked with lobbyists at the pricey French Laundry restaurant less than a month earlier.

“I’m going to stand up for my rights. I’m going to stand up for my business that I worked extremely hard to run and to have, and I’m going to stand up for the community.”

Rammel was skeptical of Newsom’s assurances that the latest order would only last a few weeks and began organizing resistance with other local business owners.

“I told restaurant owners, you’re not smart if you think this is only going to be three weeks. It’s definitely going to be months. And I was right.”

Rammel and other Carlsbad businesses formed a coalition that eventually numbered in the hundreds.

“We opened up, and it was crazy because [Carlsbad was] really the only city that was doing this outspokenly and telling the community, telling the news that we were going to stay open,” says Rammel. “And we were going to continue to be safe. We’re going to continue to wear masks and sanitize and six feet apart and do everything that we had been doing before. But that we were not going to close down.”

Rammel was issued a citation by San Diego’s public health department and by the state alcohol board, which threatened to revoke her liquor license.

But the county sheriff had decided not to enforce the governor’s order. The local police issued her a citation, but she says they apologized as they did so.

“They said, ‘We just want you to know that we don’t want to be doing this. We want you guys to survive this, sorry,’ as they’re handing me the paper,” says Rammel. 

Today, the coalition that defied the governor’s orders is suing Newsom and their state and local health departments to drop the fines and compensate them for losses incurred because of the shutdowns. The defendants in the case declined to comment for this story. Whoever prevails, the case could have implications for what the scope of executive power truly is in a state of emergency.

“Underground regulations facilitate arbitrary enforcement, and they undermine the rule of law,” says attorney Matt Harrison, who represents the San Diego County business owners. (Harrison is a former senior fellow at Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason and Reason TV.)

He says Newsom’s emergency orders didn’t follow the proper procedure for issuing new regulations.

“The most canonical, established application of due process is that the law needs to be clear enough so that a reasonable person can understand what’s prohibited,” says Harrison. 

Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, released on August 28, 2020, laid out a color-coded tier system indicating which types of businesses were able to open and in what manner. Harrison says that this plan wasn’t legally binding because the governor didn’t follow the correct legal procedure: Regulations in California are required to be submitted to the secretary of state, who then makes them available for a public review process. Regulations also have to be accompanied by an explanation for why they’re justified.

“It’s the rules for the rule-makers, the regulations for the regulators,” says Harrison.

The state argues that the governor was able to circumvent this procedure because he was issuing emergency orders during a public health crisis.

This case is about whether due process exists in emergencies in the state. 

Rammel says that despite the governor’s mantra, the regulations didn’t follow the science with regard to COVID-19 spread.

“The restrictions didn’t make sense. We were keeping people safe. The numbers from restaurants, there was no proof that the outbreaks were coming from us,” says Rammel.

Rammel and the coalition lost the first round when a San Diego Superior Court judge dismissed the coalition’s lawsuit. The case is now before an appeals court.

Courts have recently demonstrated a willingness to strike down administrative actions that circumvent standard rule-making procedures. Several Trump administration actions were struck down, including one that would have added a census question about citizenship status, one that would have changed deportation procedures, and an executive order that would have allowed employers to opt out of certain birth control insurance coverage.

Rammel says the fines she still faces for refusing to follow the governor’s order amount to a couple of thousand dollars and don’t threaten her livelihood. But this isn’t a fight about money.

“I still feel like our rights are being tested, and that’s scary because we live in America where we’re supposed to be free, and we’re supposed to be able to have our rights and make the choice to be open…And I think that’s being threatened right now,” says Rammel.

This article was originally published by Reason.com

New California Law Makes It Easier To Sue Cops Who Violate Civil Rights

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed a bill (SB 2) that will eliminate several legal immunities that shield law enforcement from civil rights lawsuits, a move that will make it easier for victims of excessive force and police misconduct to sue the officers responsible.

Today, one of the biggest hurdles to hold officers accountable is qualified immunity, which prevents government agents from being held liable for violating someone’s constitutional rights, unless they violated “clearly established” constitutional rights. This doctrine has yielded downright Kafkaesque results. Just in California, Fresno police officers accused of stealing more than $225,000 and Los Angeles County social workers accused of sexual harassment have all been granted qualified immunity on the grounds that it was unclear whether stealing or sexual harassment were constitutional violations. 

As an alternative to federal courts, lawmakers in more than half the states have introduced bills that would let individuals sue law enforcement officers in state court for violating the state constitution, according to the Institute for Justice. In theory, a state cause of action would let victims bypass the complicated hurdles imposed by qualified immunity in federal courts.   …

Click here to read the full article from Forbes.com