Santa Clara University Student Government Says Conservative Speakers Make Campus ‘Unsafe’

Santa Clara University’s student government has voted against granting official status to the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), on the grounds that the group’s goals — bringing conservative speakers to the California campus — would contribute to an unsafe climate for marginalized students.

“I also think that the presence of YAF would further marginalize minority students on campus and if anything makes minority students feel more unsafe or targeted,” said one student senator in a statement.

Another student senator lamented that YAF might bring conservative pundit Ben Shapiro to campus and Shapiro’s presence would cause “emotional harm.”

The vote was 13–13, which fell short of the needed two-thirds majority to confer formal recognition, according to The College Fix.

Recognized student groups have access to university funding. The school is therefore engaging in viewpoint discrimination as long as it denies YAF this status because of the organization’s ideology. This conflicts with the private university’s stated commitment to free speech, and so the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is calling on the college to overturn the student government’s decision:

When a student government recognizes (or refuses to recognize) student organizations, it exercises authority delegated to it by the college or university. That authority is necessarily circumscribed by the legal commitments made by the institution, and the institution must ensure that its agents do not exceed their authority. That is the case here, and [Santa Clara University]’s leadership must take steps—as it has before, and as its institutional policies expressly permit—to uphold the university’s laudable commitment to freedom of expression.

This article was originally published by Reason.com

California lawmakers poised to approve $214.8 billion budget

California lawmakers are poised to approve a framework for a $214.8 billion operating budget on Thursday, the first step in a spending package that seeks to address the teacher shortage, expand health care to some adults living in the country illegally and bolster the state’s top firefighting agency following the most devastating wildfire season in state history.

State law requires lawmakers to pass the framework by midnight Saturday. If they don’t, they don’t get paid. Lawmakers reached an agreement on Sunday night and scheduled a vote for Thursday, days ahead of the deadline.

“I do think it’s a good budget,” said state Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. “In every budget there is good and there is could be better.”

The massive bill, totaling more than 900 pages, directs tax dollars in the state’s most populous state. But lawmakers must still pass more than a dozen other bills to implement the budget. These “trailer bills” could contain important details, including implementing a monthly fee on cellphone bills to pay for upgrades to the 911 system. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press

Combatting Climate Change Beyond the Courts

Climate Change is the single most pressing problem addressing our planet. Increasing global temperatures have the potential to flood our cities, cause fires to burn our homes and forests, and lay waste to environments that need to thrive to support human, animal, and plant life. As a mother, I want a safe and habitable planet for my children, their children, and future generations.

I recently participated in a panel put on by the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington, DC based think tank focused on promoting “radially pragmatic” ideas. The panel explored whether litigation was an effective tool to combat climate change.

My take is that litigation is an inefficient and inelegant way to combat climate change. Instead, we should urge our law and policy makers to promote innovation at the state, local, and federal level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change. We should use the power of government and the press to share ideas that work – based on shared responsibility – rather than target a few manufacturers to pay for a problem that we have all helped cause.

Most climate change lawsuits rely on a public nuisance theory of law, rather than traditional tort liability. Public nuisance law can best be understood as the opposite of a public good – it is a public bad. Unlike traditional tort lawsuits, which are based on individual harms – you hit me with your car so I will sue you to pay my medical bills – public nuisance theory relies on a bad harm to all of us. Historically, it was used to punish someone who polluted the town well, or who blocked access to the bridge. There is no countervailing good to the public nuisance activity.

One of the biggest and most notable cases to successfully use the public nuisance theory was a case brought by Santa Clara county against manufacturers of lead-based paint, which resulted in a $1B plus verdict (that was later reduced on appeal.) That verdict got the attention of plaintiff’s lawyers, who could see the power of a public nuisance lawsuit and have been trying to get in on the action.

In many cases, including the climate change lawsuits, the plaintiff’s lawyers shop around for local governments to serve as plaintiffs. They tell the cities that they will front the legal fees and bring the case on contingency basis.  The lawyers are only paid at the end, if they recover. It is easy to see why a city might like this – there’s no skin in the game and there’s the prospect of free money. That’s more politically appealing than increasing taxes to pay for adaptations necessary as a result of climate change or imposing mandates that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make those adaptations less necessary.

In California, eight cities and counties have responded to these overtures and agreed to let the lawyers file lawsuits in their names against a handful of oil and gas companies for the costs of climate change. In two cases that have since been joined together, Oakland and San Francisco sued five oil companies for an unnamed amount to pay for the costs of adaptation to climate change caused in part by use of fossil fuels. A Federal Judge dismissed the case, explaining what is wrong with these lawsuits:

“The scope of plaintiff’s theory is breathtaking. It would reach the sale of fossil fuels anywhere in the world, including all past and otherwise lawful sales, where the seller knew that the combustion of fossil fuels contributed to the phenomenon of global warming…anyone who supplied fossil fuels with knowledge of the problem would be liable.” See Order Granting Motion to Dismiss, page 4, available  here: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/06/26/climate/document-Judge-Dismisses-Climate-Suit-Against-Oil-Companies.html?module=inline.

The judge notes, “…it is true that carbon dioxide released from fossil fuels has caused (and will continue to cause) global warming. But against that negative, we must weigh this positive: all our industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fueled by oil and coal. Without those fuels, virtually all our monumental progress would have been impossible. All of us have benefitted. Having reaped the benefit of that historic progress, would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded? Is it really fair, in light of those benefits, to say that the sale of fossil fuels was unreasonable?” (Same Order, page 6.)

The idea that a global, planet-wide problem could be blamed on a handful of companies is insufficient for providing any meaningful solutions to climate change. As the Judge Alsup noted, “The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case.” (Same order, page 15.) Governments – local, state, and federal – can and should address the problem of global warming.

As was clear at the Progressive Policy Institute’s forum, California is a leader in addressing climate change issues. Not only do we have aggressive greenhouse gas emissions targets, the California Energy Commission explained that it is overseeing the Local Government Challenge, supplying grants to local governments to achieve greenhouse gas reductions. These successful projects are then highlighted so they can be replicated by other local governments. For example, San Diego is analyzing energy use in city buildings to reduce emissions, and Del Mar installed solar panels on their new city hall.

Efforts like these are a more productive use of local elected officials’ time than bringing lawsuits against politically targeted manufacturers and oil companies.

Kim Stone is the founder and principal of Stone Advocacy, a Sacramento-based boutique lobbying firm. She is the former President of the Civil Justice Association of California.  A former state and federal prosecutor, she is graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Law School. She serves on the advisory board of the Progressive Policy Institute.

More Than Just Another Piece of Nonsense Legislation

Nobody in the United States Patent Office ever actually said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

The faux-quotation was a joke that became famous sometime around 1900, when there was a general feeling of being overwhelmed by the fast-paced development of new technology and gadgetry.

Similarly, nobody in California ever said, “Everything that can be banned has been banned.” But that’s no joke. The banning has only begun.

First it was plastic grocery bags. Then plastic straws. And now, paper receipts.

Assembly Bill 161 would make it illegal for stores to print a paper receipt unless a customer specifically asks for one, or unless state or federal law requires it, and even then, receipts would have to be brief and to the point, with no offers of free McMuffins for filling out a survey, no coupons and no advertising.

The bill has already passed the Assembly and is working its way through the state Senate.

According to the American Forest and Paper Association, the U.S. economy creates 181,000 tons of paper receipts annually. Not all those receipts are printed in California, of course, but even if they were, the volume of waste created would hardly be significant. The amount of paper that goes into California’s landfills is about 5.95 million tons every year.

Still, some lawmakers in Sacramento have become so passionate about eliminating waste (write your own joke) that they have committed themselves to ever-increasing efforts at “source reduction.” That’s the idea that we wouldn’t have to think about disposal or recycling if we simply didn’t use the thing in the first place.

So that’s why AB161 gets tough on receipts.

The cost of the bill, if enacted into law, would be very high. Retailers of all types would have to buy equipment in order to convert to electronic receipt technology. Even gas pumps would have to be retrofitted. There’s also a cost in time spent on transactions, as store clerks and customers (and the people in line behind them) endure repeated conversations about email addresses, privacy policies and marketing opt-outs.

A few types of businesses have been exempted from the bill’s requirements. Retailers doing less than $2 million in business annually, health care providers and cash-only businesses wouldn’t have to deal with the electronic receipt mandate.

Other businesses are still trying to win exemptions. Pharmacies, for example. It’s not hard to imagine horrific invasions of privacy from a data hack that reveals which prescription drugs were purchased and by whom.

Grocery stores have expressed concern about the combined impact of the bag ban and the mandate for digital receipts. To show their good environmental hearts, grocers have embraced the policy of allowing customers to carry merchandise out of the store without a bag. But without a paper receipt, store employees would have difficulty determining whether an armload of groceries was purchased or liberated.

However, these issues are of no concern to Green America, the group that wrote the “Skip the Slip” report that led to this bill. Green America has offered varying estimates of the environmental impact from printed receipts. The May 2018 “Skip the Slip” report claimed that an estimated 10 million trees were cut down every year to provide the paper used in receipts in the U.S. But the January version of the report chopped the estimate down to only 3 million trees.

Notably, Jeff Marcous, the chairman of Green America’s board of directors, is also the chief executive officer of Dharma Merchant Services, which sells digital point-of-sale devices that manage credit card transactions.

The receipt ban appears to conflict with some of California’s tough consumer privacy laws. For example, merchants are prohibited from requesting personal data, like email addresses or cell phone numbers, as a condition of accepting credit cards for purchases. AB 161 would shield retailers from that law, but the privacy concerns raised by asking consumers to give up that data have not been addressed.

And that’s the reason AB161 is much worse than just another piece of nonsense legislation from the jokers in our non-serious Capitol.

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.”

Marijuana industry wants L.A. to crack down on illegal pot shops

The legal marijuana industry urged Los Angeles City Hall on Monday to get tougher with illegal shops that are gouging their businesses in open sight.

Illegal pot shops are widespread throughout Los Angeles and typically look like the real thing. And they’re thriving — they sell cheaper products than their legal rivals because they don’t charge hefty state and local taxes.

In a letter Monday, the industry group Southern California Coalition recommended the city consider seizing cannabis inventory and cash from illegal shops that are found to be selling tainted products.

In the legal market, marijuana, concentrates, cookies and other products must be tested by independent labs for consumer safety — a requirement that illegal shops can ignore. …

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

Measure EE failure could be a turning of tax tide

Against formidable odds, taxpayers scored a significant victory last week against big progressive interests. Measure EE, sponsored by the Los Angeles Unified School District, would have imposed a $500 million dollar annual property tax on all property owners within the district’s boundaries.

Because the tax was being advanced by the second largest school district in the nation, its potential impact was obviously huge. But Measure EE was more than just a local tax proposal. The outcome of the election was bound to have ramifications throughout the state, not just in Los Angeles.  That is why so many political interests were watching the campaign and its outcome so closely.

LAUSD backers claimed that they had a huge disadvantage because Measure EE, as a “special tax” under Proposition 13, needed a two-thirds vote of the voting electorate to pass. This complaint is not compelling given that EE didn’t even receive a simple majority of those voting.

Against this claimed disadvantage, let’s balance all the advantages possessed by the Measure EE proponents. The first is money. At latest count, it appears that the backers spent five times more than the opponents. It is always easier to raise campaign funds from those who stand to personally benefit financially from a ballot measure because the return on investment is so high. Public sector labor, especially the teachers’ union, were the biggest contributors. Also contributing to help pass the tax hike were various interests that do business with the city and were vulnerable to “requests” or retaliation from Mayor Eric Garcetti. Only a fool would believe that most of these campaign contributions were truly voluntary.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Undocumented immigrants to get health care in Gavin Newsom’s California budget deal

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first budget won’t look exactly like he wanted, but a deal lawmakers released late Sunday largely fulfills the objectives he set six months ago when he first outlined his spending plan.

Lawmakers want to use an “extraordinary” state budget surplus to expand health care options for undocumented people while stockpiling billions of dollars in reserves in anticipation of an economic downturn, according to documents the Legislature’s Budget Conference Committee released.

The agreement marks the end of months of negotiations between Newsom and the Legislature. Lawmakers face a June 15 deadline to pass the budget, which will take effect in July. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Charter haters’ train is temporarily derailed in CA

Last week, two seemingly sure-shot bills were deep-sixed in the California legislature. AB 1506 would have placed a ceiling on the number of charter schools allowed in the state – the magic number being those in existence at the end of this year. A new school could open only if another had closed. Additionally, the more draconian SB 756 would have placed a moratorium on any new schools whatsoever until Jan. 1, 2022.

Given the power of the California Teachers Association, and the political composition of the state legislature, the bills’ demise was quite surprising. CTA president Eric Heins used the standard union mantra by insisting that the charter school industry in California has risen “without any accountability or transparency.” (Memo to Heins: Stop your hypocritical rant about accountability. California’s latest NAEP scores are pathetic. On the 2017 test, the state was near the bottom nationally, with 69 percent of 4th grade students not proficient in both math and reading. So maybe harping only on charter “accountability” is not a good idea.)

Also, Heins et al. never acknowledge a 2014 study from Stanford University, which found that low-income black students in California charter schools gained 36 more days of learning in reading and 43 more days in math a year than their district school counterparts. Stanford also released the results of a study in 2017 which revealed that the longer students attend schools in charter networks, the greater their gains. For example, “in math, students attending schools in charter networks gain, on average, about 34 more days of learning in their first year than similar students in traditional district schools. By their third year in that school, they gain 69 additional days of learning – roughly twice the growth.”

While not all studies show such a disparity between traditional district schools and charters, by and large, charters do a better job. This is why they are preferred by many parents, especially minorities. In fact, a recent Democrats for Education Reform poll showed that 58 percent of black Dems were in favor, while 32 were opposed. The numbers for Hispanics were 52 for and 30 against.

So what do the unions do now? In California and elsewhere, unionistas have long held a “Kill ‘Em or Unionize ‘Em” attitude toward charters. Because of their inability to mortally wound them in the Golden State, maybe their next push will be to organize them.

However, this is not an easy road. As Rick Hess points out in the Washington Examiner, while the number of unionized charter schools nationwide is up since 2010, from 604 to 781, the share of charter schools that are unionized have actually declined during the same time period, from 12 to 11 percent. One of the problems is that it is time-consuming and costly to organize stand-alone charters or even small charter networks. Another organizing issue is the freedom factor for teachers. Educators who prefer charters are typically independent types who want to escape a union’s collective bargaining constraints, where every second of a teacher’s day is regulated. As Hess points out, unionized charters operate like just like unionized traditional district schools.

So the question then becomes, “Just how good are unionized charters?” Well, actually not very good at all. A few years back Jay Greene wrote about a study conducted by Harvard economist Tom Kane which found that “students accepted by lottery at independently operated charter schools significantly outperformed students who lost the lottery and returned to district schools. But students accepted by lottery at charters run by the school district with unionized teachers experienced no benefit.” (Emphasis added.)

Therefore when charter schools unionize, they become identical to traditional district schools in performance. Greene adds, “Unions may say they support charter schools, but they only support charters after they have stripped them of everything that makes charters different from district schools.”

Back in California, we are not yet out of the woods. While AB 1506 and SB 756 have been shelved, the authors plan to bring them back in the future. Also, two other damaging bills, AB 1505 and AB 1507, are very much alive. AB 1505 would knock out the appeals process. The way things are now, if a charter is turned down by a local school district, it can appeal to the county and then the state. AB 1507 would make it difficult for a charter that is having trouble finding a facility to locate in a neighboring district. These bills both passed in the State Assembly and now move on to the Senate, where the battle will soon continue.

Considering how bleak the situation was just a couple of weeks ago, the latest news is terrific for charter schools and the children who attend them. But the proverbial wolf is still lying in wait at the door. As such, continuing protests and eternal vigilance are required to keep the teachers unions and their toadies in Sacramento at bay.

 *   *   *

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center

Fueled by Progressive Indifference, California’s Public-Health Crisis is Mounting.

California, to some people’s way of thinking, is the most modern state in the country, if not the most cutting-edge place on earth. It’s progressive, hip, innovative—a bellwether, filled with pioneers and opinion-makers. It’s also unique for its constant battles against biblical catastrophes—earthquakes, droughts, landslides, and floods are all part of the state’s past as well as its present, as are raging wildfires that have left large tracts in ashes. Even secular humanists might be tempted to declare the state cursed.

Now California is home to a public-health crisis. This one is no act of God, though, but rather the inevitable result of tolerating unsanitary conditions. Diseases, some bringing to mind medieval times, have returned to urban streets. Typhus, carried by infected fleas and transmitted by rats and other animals, plagues Los Angeles. Hepatitis A, spread through fecal matter, has sickenedmore than 1,000 people in Southern California since 2017. A “trash and rodent nightmare” threatens downtown Los Angeles. There’s “a mountain of rotting, oozing, stinking trash” that stretches “a good 20 yards along a skid row alley,” where “rats popped their heads out of the debris like they were in a game of Whac-A-Mole.”

The garbage and disease outbreaks are closely linked. In late May, the local NBC affiliate reported that “piles of rotting garbage left uncollected by the city of Los Angeles, even after promises to clean it up, are fueling concerns about a new epidemic after last year’s record number of flea-borne typhus cases.” These garbage piles, along with human feces in San Francisco streets requiring apps for avoidance, contrast with California’s progressive past. Progressives once cared about clean streets and public health. Today, they value political correctness, protecting the interests of the homeless over pedestrians. Their policies have produced appalling conditions in urban neighborhoods.

“This approach calls itself progressive but is the polar opposite of what progressives supported, which was sanitation and public health,” said Joel Kotkin, a City Journal contributing editor and a Chapman University fellow. “Sewer socialism, if you will, was a noble attempt to clean up what were often dirty dystopias. The new progressives want to create a new green dystopia, turning the modern city back into a place more like Dharavi in Mumbai than La Guardia’s New York.”

Henry Miller, a senior fellow for health studies at the Pacific Research Institute, believes that California is virtually unable to provide basic municipal services. The state “has become a victim of its own attractiveness, combined with political mismanagement” and “one-party rule.” Miller agrees with the downtown merchant who told a Los Angeles Times columnist that “once a pile takes shape, the appearance of lawlessness and neglect is a magnet for other dumpers.” The same, he noted, is “true of homeless encampments, panhandlers, the expansion of skid row neighborhoods, the increase in vandalism and other minor crimes, and so on.”

Under progressive governance, California appears to be regressing at an alarming pace. While the state can’t do much about some disasters, aside from cleaning up afterward, it can stop its self-inflicted march into the past.

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

This article was originally published by City Journal Online

Automakers urge California, US to restart mileage talks

Major automobile manufacturers urged the Trump administration and California on Thursday to restart negotiations over vehicle mileage standards to prevent a lengthy legal battle, warning that moving ahead with two sets of standards would create instability in the auto market.

“What works best for consumers, communities, and the millions of U.S. employees that work in the auto industry is one national standard that is practical, achievable, and consistent across the 50 states,” the 17 companies including Honda, Ford and Mercedes-Benz wrote in a letter addressed to Trump.

At issue is a Trump administration roll back of tougher Obama-era mileage standards that would require cars to get 36 miles (58 kilometers) of real-world driving per gallon (3.8 liters) of gas by 2025. The goal is for Americans to fill up their gas tanks less frequently, sending fewer climate-changing emissions and pollutants into the air.

Instead, the administration is halting the tougher standards at a 2020 requirement that cars achieve 30 miles (48 kilometers) per gallon of real-word driving. It also wants to take away California’s long-held ability to set its own, tougher standards, first granted in 1970 under the Clean Air Act as the state dealt with oppressive smog. Under the Obama rules, though, California and the federal government were on the same page. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press