Amendments end Gov. Newsom’s unease on vaccine bill

Amendments to an emotionally fraught bill designed to crack down on fraudulent vaccine exemptions change the legislation’s focus just two days before a key Assembly committee hearing.

The bill’s author, Sen. Richard Pan, negotiated the amendments after Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed reservations about shifting too much power to state bureaucrats. He now says he’ll sign it.

Among the changes:

— Instead of every medical exemption, state health officials would target their reviews to doctors who issue five or more exemptions in a year, and to exemptions at schools where the vaccination rate dips below 95%. …

Click here tor read the full article from the Associated Press

Healthcare tax for citizens, free healthcare for noncitizens

If there was any question whatsoever as to whether California has gone completely off the rails, proposals in the new state budget should remove all doubt.  Perhaps the most egregious of these involve changes in state law as they relate to health care.

As of this writing, those proposals have yet to be adopted by both houses of the legislature – which is constitutionally required to pass the budget bill by June 15th every year – but statements by legislative leaders have caused a great deal of angst among the taxpayer public.

First among the inexplicable ideas is the proposal to force citizen and legal immigrant taxpayers to pay a new healthcare tax in order to subsidize healthcare for California residents who are living in the country illegally. Yes, you read that right.  The tax that Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to impose is a penalty on all those who don’t comply with the “individual mandate.” If this sounds familiar, it should. The individual mandate was a key component of Obamacare at the federal level until the penalty was repealed by the Republican-led Congress in 2017.

If it passes, California would be one of only four states imposing a tax on those who won’t or can’t obtain the kind of health insurance coverage the government requires. The state-imposed mandate would parallel the federal mandate which, in 2016, amounted to $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of yearly household income, whichever was higher. The tax is projected by Newsom to generate about $1 billion over three years.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Gas prices have dropped, but a new California tax will change that soon

Although gasoline prices in Sacramento keep falling, a statewide tax set to take effect next month may change all that.

Prices dropped 8 cents in Sacramento last week amid a continued decline, bringing the average cost for a gallon of regular-grade gas to $3.74, according to fuel price tracker GasBuddy.

But beginning July 1, drivers may see a change in the trend, when a new California gas tax kicks in.

The current statewide tax on a gallon of gas is 41.7 cents, while the new tax will be 47.3 cents per gallon, a 5.6-cent increase. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

California goes even bigger on Obamacare

California is beefing up Obamacare, restoring an individual mandate, expanding health insurance subsidies well into the middle class and covering some undocumented adults through Medicaid. It’s an incremental step toward universal coverage that can animate the Democrats’ party-defining debate over how best to cover everyone — through a mixed public-private system or through “Medicare for All.”

The Democratic-controlled state legislature on Thursday approved a budget, clearing the path for a statewide penalty for failing to purchase health insurance, which will help subsidize coverage for middle-income people earning too much to receive federal financialhelp from Obamacare. California will also become the first state to extend Medicaid coverage to low-income undocumented adults up to age 26, defying the Trump administration’s efforts to shrink government benefits to immigrants.

The moves fall well short of a sweeping Medicare for All-style system vigorously supported by the party’s progressive wing here in California and across the country — and viewed much more cautiously by much of the Democratic establishment.

The idea of expanding Obamacare subsidies could gain traction among more moderate Democrats in Washington who would rather build on the Affordable Care Act than engage in another protracted health reform battle should the party take back control in Washington. And they can sell it as a practical move toward expanding coverage immediately while the party weighs more progressive health plans….

Click here to read the full article from Politico

Inmates Can Legally Possess Marijuana, but Not Smoke It, California Court Rules

A California court has ruled that prison inmates are legally allowed to possess marijuana, but that they are not permitted to use it.

Last week, the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento overturned the convictions of five inmates who were found with pot, pointing to the language of Proposition 64, the 2016 ballot initiative that made possession of less than one ounce of marijuana no longer a felony in the state.

“The purpose of the language is to describe the vast array of means of consumption, and consumption, not possession, is the act the voters determined should remain criminalized if the user is in prison,” said the ruling, which was handed down on Tuesday. “We agree with defendants that consumption can be achieved in ways not strictly involving smoking or ingesting, such as inhaled as a nonburning vapor or applied topically such that it is absorbed through the skin.”

However, the court pointed out that smoking or ingesting marijuana remained a felony. …

Click here to read the full story from the New York Times

Down the Rabbit Hole on Housing

At the end of his pro-SB50 piece, Scott Lay asks: “Could Scott Wiener become the next Howard Jarvis-like figure?”

A better question would be:  “Could Scott Wiener become the next Gordon Gekko-like figure?”

The notion of painting corporatist Scott Wiener — Wall Street and the CBIA’s strongest advocate in Sacramento — as a populist everyman figure who is fighting for small homeowners against government overreach takes us into truly Lewis Carrollian terrain, even within the truly bizarre world of Sacramento politics.

There are so many false assumptions and “through the looking glass” moments in the article that it’s difficult to know where to begin.

Let’s try starting with the PPIC poll referenced by Joel Fox.  Did the poll ask, for example, if those surveyed felt single-family zoning should be made illegal throughout the state? Do Californians really feel so differently about housing than the rest of America, in which fully 80% of Americans prefer single-family housing, despite the contention of Scott Wiener acolytes that single-family housing is inherently “racist” and “immoral”?  Did the author consider that, hey, even UCLA students might decide someday when they’re older that they might join the majority of Americans and learn to love the virtues of a backyard.

While, despite Scott Lay’s suggestion, UCLA students may also not be exactly representative for California residents as a whole, he also mischaracterizes the opposition to SB50, using Yimby talking points.  No, it’s not just “wealthy donors” who opposed SB50. In fact, members of diverse communities throughout the state have opposed this war on single-family housing and on communities. And in LA, it wasn’t just Paul Koretz.  In fact, a unanimous LA City Council voted to oppose SB50 and Council President Herb Wesson spoke eloquently against the bill at a town hall in, yes, the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles.

What’s curiouser and curiouser is that SB50’s biggest supporters are the tech oligarchs, who are largely responsible for increasing income inequality, which is a key element of the state’s housing affordability crisis.  Wealthy developers and Wall St. are also big supporters: blanket upzoning can create blanket big profits, though it is more than questionable whether more market-rate housing might not, in fact, make the housing affordability crisis worse.  (Because building more Porsches won’t reduce the price of Priuses).

Lay writes: “Nobody is proposing that my childhood home or anybody else’s be plowed down to build condo towers on Montecito.” Except, that is exactly what SB50 is proposing.  In my city, Beverly Hills, which already is as dense as Detroit, Cleveland and Denver, single-family houses would be torn down to build luxury condos, convenient places for global capital to park money without doing a darn thing to address affordability.  In fact, with bills like SB330 from Wiener’s crony, Nancy Skinner, cities would be limited in their ability to force luxury developers to build or pay for more affordable housing. In fact, rumor has it Wall St. is building a monument to both Wiener and Skinner behind the “Charging Bull” statue.

Densification, as Lay writes, can enhance neighborhoods, but it can also detract from them.  It depends. Let’s not forget that slums and tenements were the product of densification. And while times may change (and some things such as reliance on obsolete urban planning models like TOD should change), some things don’t.  One size still doesn’t fit all. People still want to make their own lifestyle and housing choices, without the government or Wall St. dictating “acceptable” levels of densities. Livable communities are still important in providing a sense of place and a sense belonging and a sense of home in an increasingly cold and impersonal world.

Want to address housing affordability?  Then let non-profits build affordable housing. Let Sacramento use the state’s surplus to invest more in affordable housing, including paying the permit fees for non-profit housing providers.  Bring back redevelopment with a focus on building affordable housing. Institute vacancy taxes, foreign investor taxes and speculator taxes. Strengthen anti-trust laws to prevent a concentration of real estate ownership.  Repeal Costa-Hawkins and the Ellis Acts. Institute a statewide rental registry. Limit density bonuses to nonprofits, working in conjunction with individual communities. Address income inequality and consider instituting corporate wealth taxes.  Allow for more regional cooperation in dealing with housing issues. Deal with the root causes of job creation and job concentration. Encourage economic development in underserved areas, working towards the goal of geographic equity.

But don’t destroy neighborhoods.  Don’t take away community choice. Don’t put profits over people. In a state as diverse as California, dynamic, unique communities are the solution, not the problem, despite the best efforts of Sacramento politicians to scapegoat cities.

Finally, my guess is that Lay is also wrong in describing SB50 as dead (or delayed), though I hope he’s right here.  There is too much money for Wall St. and developers at stake: blanket upzoning is the urban planning version of turning lead to gold, and I expect we will see a Wall St. supported version of SB50 return this session as a gory, zombie gut-and-amend.

John Mirisch was elected to the Beverly Hills City Council in 2009 and is currently serving his third term as mayor.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

An Addiction Crisis Disguised as a Housing Crisis

By latest count, some 109,089 men and women are sleeping on the streets of major cities in California, Oregon, and Washington. The homelessness crisis in these cities has generated headlines and speculation about “root causes.” Progressive political activists allege that tech companies have inflated housing costs and forced middle-class people onto the streets. Declaring that “no two people living on Skid Row . . . ended up there for the same reasons,” Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, for his part, blames a housing shortage, stagnant wages, cuts to mental health services, domestic and sexual abuse, shortcomings in criminal justice, and a lack of resources for veterans. These factors may all have played a role, but the most pervasive cause of West Coast homelessness is clear: heroin, fentanyl, and synthetic opioids.

Homelessness is an addiction crisis disguised as a housing crisis. In Seattle, prosecutors and law enforcement recently estimated that the majority of the region’s homeless population is hooked on opioids, including heroin and fentanyl. If this figure holds constant throughout the West Coast, then at least11,000 homeless opioid addicts live in Washington, 7,000 live in Oregon, and 65,000 live in California (concentrated mostly in San Francisco and Los Angeles). For the unsheltered population inhabiting tents, cars, and RVs, the opioid-addiction percentages are even higher—the City of Seattle’s homeless-outreach team estimates that 80 percent of the unsheltered population has a substance-abuse disorder. Officers must clean up used needles in almost all the homeless encampments.

For drug cartels and low-level street dealers, the business of supplying homeless addicts with heroin, fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids is extremely lucrative. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the average heavy-opioid user consumes $1,834 in drugs per month. Holding rates constant, we can project that the total business of supplying heroin and other opioids to the West Coast’s homeless population is more than $1.8 billion per year. In effect, Mexican cartels, Chinese fentanyl suppliers, and local criminal networks profit off the misery of the homeless and offload the consequences onto local governments struggling to get people off the streets.

West Coast cities are seeing a crime spike associated with homeless opioid addicts. In Seattle, police busted two sophisticated criminal rings engaged in “predatory drug dealing” in homeless encampments (they were found in possession of $20,000 in cash, heroin, firearms, knives, machetes, and a sword). Police believe that “apartments were serving as a base of operations that supplied drugs to the streets, and facilitated the collection and resale of stolen property.” In other words, drug dealers were exploiting homeless addicts and using the city’s maze of illegal encampments as distribution centers. In my own Fremont neighborhood, where property crime has surged 57 percent over the past two years, local business owners have formed a group to monitor a network of RVs that circulate around the area to deal heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamines. Dealers have become brazen—one recently hung up a spray-painted sign on the side of his RV with the message: “Buy Drugs Here!”

What are local governments doing to address this problem? To a large extent, they have adopted a strategy of deflection, obfuscation, and denial. In her  #SeattleForAll public relations campaign, Mayor Jenny Durkan insists that only one in three homeless people struggle with substance abuse, understating the figures of her own police department as well as the city attorney, who has claimed that the real numbers, just for opioid addiction, rise to 80 percent of the unsheltered.

The consequences of such denial have proved disastrous: no city on the West Coast has a solution for homeless opioid addicts. Los Angeles, which spent $619 million on homelessness last year, has adopted a strategy of palliative care—keeping addicts alive through distribution of the overdose drug naloxone—but fails to provide access to on-demand detox, rehabilitation, and recovery programs that might help people overcome their addictions. The city has been cursed, in this sense, with temperate weather, compounded by permissive policies toward public camping and drug consumption that have attracted20,687 homeless individuals from outside Los Angeles County.

No matter how much local governments pour into affordable-housing projects, homeless opioid addicts—nearly all unemployed—will never be able to afford the rent in expensive West Coast cities. The first step in solving these intractable issues is to address the real problem: addiction is the common denominator for most of the homeless and must be confronted honestly if we have any hope of solving it.

Christopher F. Rufo is a contributing editor of City Journal. He is a documentary filmmaker and research fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth, Poverty, & Morality. Follow him on Facebook here.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online

California DMV budget rises 17 percent in Real ID push

Millions of Californians have yet to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles for a driver’s license that will soon be required if they want to board airplanes or enter other federal facilities, including prisons and military bases, without a passport.

To help the DMV promote the federally mandated Real ID program and navigate ongoing implementation challenges, state lawmakers approved a budget on Thursday that will boost the department’s budget by more than $242 million.

It’s a 17 percent increase that brings the DMV’s total budget to $1.36 billion. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

What Do Public Safety Unions Stand For?

In a special election last week, Brian Dahle defeated Kevin Kiley in the race to become the next California State Senator representing District One, which sprawls north from the foothills east of Sacramento all the way to the Oregon border.

Both candidates were Republican members of the State Assembly, competing in one of the few safe Republican districts left in California. If you study their legislative voting records, all but the most committed conservative wonks would consider these men to offer pretty much the same positions on most issues. But you wouldn’t know it from reading their campaign flyers.

In a dirtier than average campaign, Dahle alleged that Kiley worked directly for Kamala Harris, referring to him as a “former staffer” of hers. That flimsy truth is based on the fact that Kiley was a deputy attorney general for the state when Harris happened to be attorney general. In other flyers, Dahle accused Kiley of making it “easier for illegal immigrant criminals to remain in the U.S.,” being “funded by the same liberals who financed Nancy Pelosi Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton,” refusing to “support legislation to hold PG&E accountable for the wildfires,” authoring “legislation making it difficult for victims who are dying from asbestos poisoning to collect damages,” and going “AWOL on welfare fraud.”

You get the idea. While Kiley tried to hit back, for every flyer he mailed, voters often received two flyers from Dahle. Some voters got more than twenty flyers supporting Dahle, more than half of them offering up dirt on Kiley. And who endorsed Brian Dahle, and, presumably, paid for much of the expenses to support his candidacy? Here, from his campaign website’s endorsement page, are the organizations at the top of that list:

“California Professional Firefighters, California State Firefighters Association, Cal Fire Firefighters Local 2881, Redding Firefighters, Sacramento Area Firefighters, Nevada County Professional Firefighters, California Highway Patrolmen Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA).”

Which begs the question: Public safety unions played a decisive role in getting Brian Dahle elected to California’s state senate. What is Brian Dahle going to do for them?

What do Public Safety Unions Stand For?

You can argue that politics in a democracy are always dirty, and both sides do it all the time. But it should still bother anyone paying attention when our role models, our teachers, police and firefighters, not only engage in politics, but often take the low road to accomplish their political objectives. Politicians who stand up to these unions are demonized.

Remember the “Chuck Reed is a Bad Person” bumper stickers appearing on cars throughout the San Jose area back in 2012, when then Mayor Reed tried to reform that city’s pensions? Remember the “Screw Arnold” bumper stickers appearing on cars all over California back in 2005, when then Governor Schwarzenegger tried to stop automatic union dues deductions from government paychecks?

Kevin Kiley is just the latest casualty.

Is spreading dirty, disparaging half-truths to destroy political rivals how people should behave who we count on to protect us from criminals, rescue us from burning buildings, and teach our children? It’s hard to forget how public union representatives talked about Gov. Schwarzenegger back in 2005 – openly on television and radio. It was ugly and personal. They didn’t sound like heroes, to put it mildly.

Even more important than the tone and the tactics of public sector unions is the political agenda they support. What do they believe in? Is protecting their pay and pensions their most important priority? Is that compatible with their pledge “to protect and to serve,” if it bankrupts our cities? And what about other issues of vital importance to our future?

Back in January 2019, how did it serve the public for International Association of Fire Fighters president Harold Schaitberger to lead 1,600 firefighters in solidarity with striking teachers in Los Angeles? Was his membership asked, or have they even thought about what unions have done to California’s public schools? Are they actually against charter schools, which often are the only hope for underprivileged children in California’s inner cities to get a quality education? Do they understand that pension and benefit costs are by far the main reason California’s public schools are in financial trouble?

And what about police unions in California? When you step back beyond issues of pay, benefits, officer safety and officer effectiveness – all compelling issues – what is their stance on the epic issues of our time? Does it represent what their members think? What do the members really believe is in the best interests of the public they serve, and are their leaders embracing those principles?

Two Conservative Pledges for Public Sector Unions

If members of public sector unions are committed liberals, they’ll probably find the political agenda of their unions to be quite in line with their personal sentiments. But what if they’re not liberals? And what about politicians who run for office and seek the endorsement of these unions? What political ideology should they mutually support? What political platform should they mutually endorse?

When candidates seek the endorsement of public sector unions, it is common for them to complete a candidate questionnaire. The questions posed are fairly predictable. The teachers union may want to know the candidate’s position on, for example, charter schools or school vouchers. A public safety union may want to know the candidate’s position on the impact of recent criminal justice reforms.

But why shouldn’t the candidates question these unions? Why shouldn’t a candidate, or a political party, for that matter, reject union money and reject union endorsements if they don’t score high enough on a questionnaire of their own? Or, before taking union money or accepting union endorsements, why not ask these union leaders to sign a pledge?

Presented below are two conservative pledges that might be presented to leaders and members of public sector unions. The first one might actually be considered bipartisan, but it might also be considered one that would only have value in a perfect world. It calls for political neutrality on the part of public sector unions, which is a fantasy. The second one, offered for the real world, presents a conservative agenda that union members may embrace wholly or in part. It is a conservative alternative to the liberal agenda that currently attracts nearly all public sector union spending.


(1) Americans First: We recognize that the interests of the American citizens we serve come first; before the interests of the government, government employees, or non-citizens.

(2) Citizens Before Government: We understand that sometimes government policies benefit ourselves and our union more than they benefit the general public, and we will always put the public interest before the interests of ourselves or our unions.

(3) Shared Sacrifice: During times of economic hardship or declining budgets, we are willing to make reasonable sacrifices, proportionate to what the general public is enduring.

(4) Same Rules: We do not expect our union to protect us if we have engaged in behavior on the job – through incompetence, negligence, or criminality – that would get us fired in the private sector, and we expect our union to refrain from protecting bad behavior of any kind.

(5) Same Benefits: We realize that our pension benefits far exceed private sector norms, that they are financially unsustainable and unfair to taxpayers. Consequently, for work we have not yet performed, we support reductions to our pension benefit accruals to pre-1999 multipliers.

(6) Political Neutrality: As public servants our calling is to be nonpartisan and politically neutral, and we expect our unions to limit their activities to collective bargaining.


Preamble: We accept that public sector union activity, all of it, is inherently political. We therefore choose to embrace political positions that support the best interests of American citizens, and recognize our voice is needed to help win the war to preserve our culture, our national identity, our national independence, our prosperity, our freedom, and our ability to compete in the world. To that end, here in California, we will use all our influence to support candidates, legislation, and citizen initiatives to achieve the following political goals:

(1) More Infrastructure: We support comprehensive upgrades and expansion of California’s infrastructure. To that end, we support streamlining of the permitting process, and innovative public/private financing including allocating at least 10 percent of all public employee pension fund assets to fund revenue bonds. Infrastructure priorities include smart roads, upgraded rail, pipeline, airport, and seaport assets; natural gas and nuclear power plants; hospitals, mental health facilities, prisons; desalination plants, off-stream reservoirs, aquifer storage, sewage reuse, and aqueduct upgrades.

(2) Practical Environmentalism: We support a complete overhaul of California’s excessive environmentalist legislation, especially with respect to forest management, wildlife management, water management, air quality management, land development, and renewable energy mandates. For example, we support a requirement that all renewable energy producers guarantee uninterrupted, year-round energy, and work those costs into whatever contracts they negotiate with public utilities.

(3) Deregulate Land Development: We realize that a major cause of unaffordable housing and homelessness are excessive environmentalist regulations – accordingly, we support repeal of CEQA which ties up all construction projects with needless requirements that either overreach or are duplicative with existing federal law. We support repeal of SB 375 which attempts to restrict all new development into existing cities. We agree that expanding California’s urban footprint is an essential prerequisite to bringing down the price of housing and we support legislation to further that goal.

(4) Restore Law and Order: We demand a ballot initiative to repeal Prop 47 which downgraded property crimes and drug offenses, making it impossible to engage in “broken windows” policing. We demand a ballot initiative to repeal Prop. 57, which released thousands of criminals back onto California’s streets. We demand legislative repeal of AB 953, which needlessly bureaucratized police work and made it harder to make arrests based on objective criteria.

(5) School Choice and Teacher Accountability: We support private sector nonprofit and for-profit organizations competing with traditional public schools. We support charter schools, home schooling, school vouchers, and tuition deductibility. We believe teacher tenure should not be granted, if at all, until after at least five years of classroom observation. We believe incompetent teachers should be swiftly fired at the discretion of principals, and we believe competence, not seniority, should govern what teachers are dismissed during layoffs.

(6) Anti-Discrimination: We recognize that individual hard work and merit is the traditional path to success in America, and therefore we reject and oppose all forms of discrimination based on group classifications – including race, gender, income, religion, national origin, age, ableism, etc. We reject and oppose any form of affirmative action or quotas in hiring, layoffs, firing, promotion, college admissions, contract awards, or any similar competitive activity. To lower tuition costs and restore a level playing field to academia, we support eliminating the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” bureaucracies in every public institution of higher learning.

(7) Sensible Immigration Policies: We support immigration reform that emphasizes admittance based on merit over chain migration and the visa lottery. We demand an end to birthright citizenship based on birth tourism. We demand strict enforcement of citizenship verification requirements for employers. We demand reform of asylum laws to prevent further abuse. We demand the right for members of law enforcement to work with ICE officials to keep violent criminals in custody.

Conservative Members of Unions Have Choices

Ever since the Janus decision made it possible for public sector union members to vote with their feet, these unions have become more accountable. If they support candidates and legislation that offends their members, those members can quit.

Conservatives who wish they lived in a perfect world may push for political neutrality from public sector unions. Conservatives who live in the real world might consider more assertive engagement with public sector unions. Demand they pursue political objectives that serve the public, and represent the opinions of their members.

As it is, conservatives, especially in California, are getting nothing from the most powerful special interest in the state, public sector unions. But now more than ever, post-Janus, California’s conservatives can ignite conservative insurgencies within these unions. They should seize this opportunity. They have nothing to lose.

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.

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