CA intervenes in Planned Parenthood video sting

Undercover videos that sent Planned Parenthood into crisis mode have drawn the concern of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose interest in reviewing their legality helped put the Golden State at the center of a dramatic national controversy.

Kamala HarrisHarris, embarked on a campaign to replace outgoing Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., promised lawmakers to “carefully review” the organization behind the tapes for “any violations of California law,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

The lawmakers, four Congressional Democrats, had “asked Harris and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to determine if officials from the Irvine-based Center for Medical Progress broke any laws when they posed as workers for a biotech company while recording Planned Parenthood physicians without their consent,” the Bee reported.

“Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Zoe Lofgren, Jerry Nadler and Yvette Clarke cited reports that founder David Daleiden filed paperwork to create a phony entity. They also asked the state’s top law enforcement official to look into possible violations of the Invasion of Privacy Act, which bars recording people without their permission.”

Swift litigation

planned parenthood 2The company, StemExpress, swiftly filed suit to protect themselves, drawing a temporary restraining order from Los Angeles Superior Court. According to the Associated Press, the order “prohibits the Center for Medical Progress from releasing any video of three high-ranking StemExpress officials taken at a restaurant in May. It appears to be the first legal action prohibiting the release of a video from the organization.”Unlike previous efforts by activists to cast an unflattering light on the organization, the videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress captured lurid remarks concerning the sale and use of aborted fetal body parts and organs. In addition to creating a public relations mess for Planned Parenthood, the videos also raised alarms for a company that acts as procurement middleman between the abortion provider and researchers desirous of the parts.

In one video, a former StemExpress employee told the Center for Medical Progress that she expected to be “drawing blood” rather than “procuring tissue from aborted fetuses,” according to the Federalist.

Center for Medical Progress David Daleiden hit back at the StemExpress suit in a statement, calling the litigation “meritless” and accusing StemExpress of fostering an “illegal baby parts trade,” AP added.

High-stakes politics

Although the abortion issue has not dominated the national political scene for a number of years, the shock and surprise surrounding Daledien’s videos provoked an immediate response. “Republicans called on Congress to withhold federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and GOP lawmakers in several states opened investigations of their own,” the Bee observed. “Democrats pushed back by focusing scrutiny on the producer of the videos[.]” Despite the videos’ Irvine origin, the Golden State has remained a bulwark of pro-choice public sentiment.

“In liberal-leaning California, nearly 70 percent of adults say the government should not interfere with access to abortion, according to a Public Policy Institute of California Poll last year. That number is similar to majorities registered in Field Poll surveys since the 1980s.”

One reason for the political furor: the market for fetal body parts has not been tightly regulated. “Companies that obtain the tissue from clinics and sell it to laboratories exist in a gray zone, legally,” according to the New York Times. “Federal law says they cannot profit from the tissue itself, but the law does not specify how much they can charge for processing and shipping.” Planned Parenthood denied it broke these laws.

Big business

But the trade in fetal parts, which offers access to organ stem cells impossible to obtain in other ways, has become a quietly lucrative endeavor, especially for the two small California companies that have met much of researchers’ demand. The founder of StemExpress, for instance, “started StemExpress with $9,000,” the Times reported. “An article last November in Sacramento Business Journal said that the company had grown more than 1,300 percent in three years. Its revenue was $2.2 million, according to a report in August 2014 in Inc. magazine.”

Originally posted on CalWatchdog.

Barbaric Pricing

planned parenthood

University of California Finds Imaginary Bias in ‘Microagression’

university of californiaEarly this year, the University of California’s president, Janet Napolitano, asked all deans and department chairs in the university’s ten campuses to undergo training in overcoming their “implicit biases” toward women and minorities. The department heads also needed training, according to the UC president, in how to avoid committing microaggressions, those acts of alleged racism that are invisible to the naked eye. A more insulting and mindless exercise would be hard to imagine. But Napolitano’s seminar possesses a larger significance: it demolishes any remaining hope that college administrators possess a firmer grip on reality than the narcissistic students over whom they preside.

The “Fostering Inclusive Excellence: Strategies and Tools for Department Chairs and Deans” seminar presumes that University of California faculty are so bigoted that they will refuse to hire the most qualified candidate for a professorship if that candidate happens to be female or an “underrepresented minority”—i.e., black or Hispanic. Attendees at the seminar were subjected to an “interactive theater scenario” called “Ready to Vote?” that showed white male computer-science professors on a fictional hiring committee belittling females and failing to “value diversity.” The author of the scenario, a professor of performance studies and ethnic studies at the University of California, San Diego, seems never to have attended a faculty-hiring committee meeting in her life. Nor, it would seem, has Janet Napolitano. How otherwise could they not know that every faculty search in the sciences, far from shunning females and URMs, is a desperate exercise in tracking down even remotely qualified female and non-Asian minority candidates who haven’t already been snapped up by more well-endowed competitors? Females in the sciences are hired and promoted nationwide at rates far above their representation in applicant pools. (Too few URM science Ph.D.s exist to have inspired many reliable studies analyzing their hiring chances.)

The “Fostering Inclusive Excellence” seminar supplemented the patent fictions in “Ready to Vote?” with an equally specious handout, “Identifying Implicit Bias,” which claims that females and URMs are required to meet higher academic standards than white males and that their work is scrutinized more closely by hiring committees. This conceit was preposterous 30 years ago when it first became widespread and is even more so today. True, there is a double standard in hiring, but it redounds to the benefit of females and URMs, as anyone with the remotest exposure to academic culture should know. An entire subspecialty of diversity agitation argues that nontraditional forms of scholarship, such as personal memoirs or the collective editing of anthologies, should be viewed as equivalent to publications in peer-reviewed journals during tenure evaluations, when URMs and females are performing those activities. The advocacy for nontraditional credentials for “diverse” candidates has largely succeeded, especially in the social sciences and humanities.

To voice these realities, however, is to commit a microaggression, according to University of California diversity enforcers. Another handout inflicted on “Fostering Inclusive Excellence” attendees presents a long list of microaggressions, categorized by “Theme” and “Message.” The “Myth of Meritocracy” “theme” includes such statements as: “Of course he’ll get tenure, even though he hasn’t published much—he’s Black!” The “message” conveyed by this particular microaggression, according to UC’s “Recognizing Microaggressions Tool,” is that “people of color are given extra unfair benefits because of their race.” Now where would anyone get that idea? Well, you might ask any high school senior, steeped in his class’s SAT rankings, if it’s true that “people of color” are given “extra benefits” in college admissions. He will laugh at your naïveté. A 2004 study of three top-tier universities, published in Social Science Quarterly, found that blacks were favored over whites by a factor of 5.5 and that being black got students an extra 230 SAT points on a 1,600-point scale. Such massive preferences for URMs are found at every selective college and graduate school. Every student knows this, and yet diversity protocol requires pretending that preferences don’t exist. The race (and gender) advantage continues into the academic workplace, as everyone who has sat on a hiring committee also knows. But President Napolitano is determined to brand anyone who violates that collective fiction as a closet racist, someone who targets “persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership,” in the words of the “Microaggressions Tool.”

Other alleged microaggressions include uttering such hurtful words as “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” or “America is the land of opportunity” on a UC campus. Someone who has been through the “Fostering Inclusive Excellence” seminar may call you out for giving voice to such ideas. Why exactly saying that the most qualified person should get the job is a microaggression is a puzzle. Either such a statement is regarded simply as code for alleged antiblack sentiment, or the diversocrats are secretly aware that meritocracy is incompatible with “diversity.”

Equally “hostile” and “derogatory,” according to the “Tool,” is the phrase “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.” Such a statement is obviously an insult to all those career victims whose primary occupation is proclaiming their own helplessness and inability to accomplish anything without government assistance.

Many purported microaggressions arise from the contradictions in diversity ideology. Authorities in a diversity regime are supposed to categorize people by race and ethnicity—until that unpredictable moment when they are not supposed to. Assigning a black graduate student to escort a black visiting professor, for example, is a microaggression, per the “Tool.” But wasn’t the alleged need for role models and a critical mass of “persons of color” a key justification for “diversity”? Describing a colleague as a “good Black scientist” is another microaggression. But such a categorization merely reflects the race-consciousness and bean-counting that the campus diversity enforcers insist upon.

Color-blindness constitutes an entire microaggression “Theme” in the “Tool,” pace Martin Luther King, Jr. Beware of saying, “When I look at you, I don’t see color” or “There is only one race, the human race.” Doing so, according to the “Tool,” denies “the individual as a racial/cultural being.” Never mind that diversity ideologues reject the genetic basis of racial categories and proclaim that race is merely a “social construct.” The non-diverse world is under orders both to deny that race exists and to “acknowledge race,” in Tool-parlance, regarding Persons of Color.

Other microaggressions provide a glimpse into the future. It may seem like a stretch today to label as a microaggression “being forced to choose Male or Female when completing basic forms,” but it won’t remain a stretch for long. The movement to discredit binary, biological sex distinctions is accelerating weekly; expect more institutions to accede to the demand to allow their members to choose from an array of “gender” possibilities and combinations or face protest.

Though participation in “Fostering Inclusive Excellence” was, in theory, voluntary, Napolitano had informed the deans and chairs that she would be briefed on attendance and the “tenor of the conversations.” Her office would not disclose the turnout for the seminars. It would be a good barometer for whether the faculty possesses any remaining spine.

The ultimate question raised by the seminar is: Are there any adults left on campus, at least in administrative offices? And the answer is: no. An adult administrator would realize that he is presiding over the most tolerant, well-meaning, and opportunity-filled community in human history. He would understand that the claim that females and minorities are the victims of discrimination on campuses is sheer fiction. He would know that teaching students to go around ferreting out imaginary slights does them a disservice.

Maybe that administrator is so cowardly that, while he knows these things, he is not willing to assert them in the face of student agitation for more victim infrastructure. Such cowardice is deeply unfortunate. But at least it holds out the possibility for some return to sanity at a later date. The most disturbing aspect of “Fostering Inclusive Excellence” is that it was initiated by the president’s office without outside provocation. Had Napolitano not come up with these antibias trainings, no one would have noticed their absence. Instead, she has sua sponte promulgated an initiative deeply ignorant about how seriously most professors—at least in the sciences—take their responsibilities to build up a faculty of accomplishment and research prowess. We have come to expect such ignorance from coddled, self-engrossed students. Now it turns out that those students may be the least of the university’s problems.

Charles Koch in CA: ‘Life or death struggle for our country’

From Politico:

Charles Koch, in a Saturday evening speech welcoming major donors and leading Republicans to his network’s annual summer meeting, took a swipe at Harry Reid, but also called out both parties for big spending, reckless foreign policy and corporate welfare.

Koch, speaking on a low stage in front of an elaborately manicured lawn at the St. Regis Monarch Beach luxury resort, warned about 450 assembled donors and a slew of Republican elected officials – including Sens. Cory Gardner, Mike Lee, Ben Sasse and Dan Sullivan – of a “life or death struggle for our country.”

(Read More)broken america

Amendment would give counties more supervisors

From Riverside Press-Enterprise:

A proposed state constitutional amendment with the stated aim of making government more responsive and ethnically diverse would add two members to the Riverside and San Bernardino county boards of supervisors.

The amendment offered by state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, is scheduled be heard by a Senate committee Aug. 17. It would require counties with 2 million or more residents — Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Los Angeles — to have at least seven people on their supervisorial boards.

(Read More)

Only Voters Can Solve California’s Pension Crisis

unions pension benefitsDespite its growing economy and higher tax revenue, California still faces fiscal ruin from unsustainable government pension programs.

In these good times, the state, local governments, public schools and our universities are raising taxes, boosting tuition and cutting services to pay rising employee retirement costs.  Between 2003 and 2013, combined annual pension costs have nearly tripled, from $6.43 billion to $17.5 billion.

The State Controller also reports nearly $200 billion in unfunded liabilities for state and local pension obligations.  California Common Sense calculates another $150 billion of unfunded liabilities for state and local retiree healthcare obligations.  That’s $350 billion in unfunded legacy liabilities that are driving massive cost increases, again:

  • CalPERS has told its agencies to be prepared for increases in their contributions for 50% over 5 years.
  • CalSTRS has told school districts to prepare for increases of more than 100% over the next few years.

And those warnings are for optimistic scenarios that still assume investments will earn 7.5% annually during the next 30 years.

From a purely financial perspective, retirement promises and their debts are driving California’s fiscal crisis – but politicians are the real problem, unable to say “no” to the powerful government labor union bosses that fund their campaigns and then make expensive demands at the bargaining table.

Without immediate reform, California faces a future of even higher taxes and fewer services.  Some local governments already face service delivery insolvency and bankruptcy.

Our bipartisan coalition believes voters must be given a voice in important government employee compensation and benefits decisions and politicians should ask voters before making expensive, life-long retirement promises to new employees.  That is why we are placing a statewide initiative on the ballot in 2016.

The initiative provides a “check” on state and local politicians who too often cave into union bosses’ expensive, unsustainable demands.

Our initiative prohibits the enhancement of existing pension benefits or the granting of lifetime pension benefits to new employees without voter approval.  The measure prohibits taxpayers from paying more than 50% of new employee retirement benefit costs – unless voters authorize a higher contribution.

Recent efforts by some California communities to reform government compensation and benefits have been thwarted.  In San Jose and San Diego, state agencies tried to keep pension reform measures off the ballot and have obstructed voter-approved reforms.  In Ventura County, a state law was used to stop voters from even considering a reform package.

That’s why our statewide initiative prohibits politicians and government agencies from delaying, impeding, or challenging any voter-approved public compensation and benefits reform ballot measure.

Our moderate initiative also prohibits government pension boards from penalizing public agencies that close their pension plans to new members, a common tactic to maintain the status quo.

CalPERS did that in the Stockton bankruptcy by claiming a $1.6 billion fee when the unfunded liabilities were only $400 million. When San Jose wanted to stop putting elected officials into a small CalPERS pension plan, CalPERS demanded $5 million for a $900,000 liability.  Other cities across the state have received similar CalPERS demands, making it too expensive to put new employees into defined contribution plans.

Our initiative proponents are a bipartisan group of current and former elected officials who understand the devastating impacts that skyrocketing costs have on essential services.  We know the brutal budget math grows worse if California continues down this unsustainable path.  Cities all over the state need the power to control the cost of retirement benefits for new employees to offset the skyrocketing costs for current employees and protect essential services.

Of course, public employee union operatives have already launched personal attacks and Wall Street conspiracy theories to confuse the voters. Despite union rhetoric, this modest measure will not end defined benefit plans; it simply requires voters to approve adding new members.

This week the Legislative Analyst confirmed that our measure puts voters in the driver seat – and that the mandatory requirements of the measure would produce “significant savings.”

Even better, in addition to what is specifically mandated by the measure, the LAO confirmed that voters would have new powers to add to the savings.

Government union bosses are desperate to protect their gravy train at taxpayers’ expense.  That’s why they are spinning a web of lies about the measure.

Astonishingly, the government union bosses even going so far as to claim voters will opt to spend MORE money than the politicians if given the new powers our initiative grants the people.

At the core of their argument, the unions, along with the politicians, are arguing that voters might make bad decisions with the new powers our initiative grants them.  Telling voters they cannot be trusted to make good decisions is not exactly a winning message.

How much worse can we get beyond the disastrous decisions already made by the politicians who have been bought and sold by the labor unions?  That’s a debate we are looking forward to having in 2016!

Fortunately, no amount of misinformation can change the plain English requirements of the Voter Empowerment Act.

Ultimately, we trust the voters to chart a responsible financial future.  And that’s why our initiative is an important step on the long path to fixing California’s unsustainable public employee retirement benefits.

Chuck Reed, a former Mayor of San Jose, is a Democrat. Carl DeMaio, a former Councilmember of San Diego, is a Republican

CA Dems push ambitious energy bill

wind energy turbineA bold and controversial new bill, introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore and leading Democrat Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, advanced through the Assembly on the strength of Gov. Jerry Brown’s vociferous rhetoric on climate change.

As CBS Los Angeles reported, Brown tied his support for the legislation to his broader climate agenda, which has seen him praise Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on environmental matters and earn a trip to Vatican City to push for global change.

“‘We’ve got a serious problem here,’ he told KCAL9 Political Reporter Dave Bryan via satellite. ‘Burning oil and gas and coal and diesel is a big part of the problem. We’ve got to find new bio-fuels. We have to be more efficient. We’ve got a lot to do. And by the way, if we do nothing, the cost is unimaginable.’”

Brown has done his best to use his final term in office to amplify that message whenever possible. His trip to the Vatican, Sci-Tech Today noted, will be just “the latest of several international trips the governor has taken to urge others to do more to curb global warming. He’s also been rallying states and provinces to sign an agreement to match California’s target for reducing emissions by 2050.”

Stricter standards

While Brown has pushed the message, Democrat allies in Sacramento have crafted the content of regulations to match. De Leon’s bill, SB350, “imposes three significant clean-energy goals by 2030,” U-T San Diego’s Steven Greenhut observed: “Reducing the use of petroleum products in automobiles by 50 percent; increasing to 50 percent (from a current 33-percent goal) the amount of energy that uses renewable sources such as solar and wind power; and doubling energy-efficiency in current buildings.”

In fact, the legislation was crafted around achieving the outsized goals Brown set for ratcheting down California’s statewide emissions levels. As an interim step, the governor has proposed that the state “cut emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. It’s an ambitious target that members of his administration insist is achievable,” according to Sci-Tech Today.

De Leon himself has not shied away from using aggressive language to characterize the bill’s sweep and ostensible urgency, as Greenhut noted. “We need to break the stranglehold the profit-driven oil companies have on our economy and give consumers better options to power their homes and cars in cleaner, healthier and more sustainable ways,” de Leon said in remarks posted to his website.

Brown, for his part, has openly acknowledged the level of industry outrage the bill guarantees. “Well, of course, the people who are gonna sell 50 percent less petroleum are not only gonna have questions, they’re gonna have a fierce, unrelenting opposition,” he told KCAL-9.

But the coming regulatory shakeup has made for some strange industry bedfellows. “One of the issues both utilities and solar installers have raised,” according to GreenTech Solar, “is that distributed solar should not be treated any differently than utility-scale solar as the state crafts the rules around meeting the new 50 percent target.

A legislative scramble

Part of the urgency behind SB350 has been driven by environmental regulations voted into law years ago. AB32, the big climate bill passed in 2006, “established a goal of cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emission to 1990 levels by 2020. To meet that goal, emissions need to fall by six percent between 2013 (the latest year for which figures are available) and 2020,” CalMatters reported. “Brown and other political leaders expect that to happen,” according to SCPR, although, to date, “emissions have fallen only slightly since 2009, when the recession ended.”

The minor dip has been attributed to the difficulty involved in pushing California’s energy usage much lower than it is already. “Greenhouse gas emissions in California dropped by 7 percent from their peak in 2004 to 2013, compared to 9 percent nationwide over the same period,” according to CalMatters. “Reducing emissions is harder here because the state’s economy is already relatively energy-frugal.”

Endless Bipartisan Disdain for High-Speed Rail

high speed rail trainEvery once in a great while an issue comes along that is truly bipartisan.  Regardless of political persuasion … everyone hates it!  They say that politics makes strange bedfellows and this one is a great example.

When voters gave approval to Governor Jerry Brown’s legacy issue … The Bullet Train … approved by voters with a $9-billion bond in 2008, it was expected to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes. Construction is slated to start this summer, more than two years behind the initial start date.

The Bullet Train is currently being funded by twenty-five percent of the state’s revenue from cap-and-trade fees, which discourages the use of fossil fuels by putting a price on carbon.  We are paying higher prices for gasoline and diesel fuel because of cap-and-trade fees, and that’s where a quarter of the money is going.  Governor Brown expects that carbon tax to continue into the future.

Part of the Bond stipulation was no state money would be used.  That has now changed and several private companies, which were going to bid on various parts of the project, have stated they will need State funding.  The price is no longer $9 billion but seems, according to some sources, to have doubled.

Personally, I am very much in favor of progress … especially for LA’s nightmare transportation issues … but it has to be smart progress.  There are so many disparate groups fighting this monster project that one has to take a step back, see it from a macro point of view but keeping in mind that a bunch of micro make up a macro.  Both working class and affluent areas are going to be affected.  What does it do to real estate prices having a tunnel or tracks near your back yard, let alone quality of life issues?

Last year the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) announced that they would hold meetings seeking the public’s suggestions through every phase of the project.  They kept their word.  Whereas they were seeking suggestions … they were slammed with complaints.  To sum up the suggestions … Don’t Do It!

I’m just going to discuss some of the issues in the Palmdale/Burbank plan.  At the present time four alternate plans have been presented to implement two routes.  One going through the mountains  through the East Valley to Burbank- the other impacting more of the central Valley  Take a look at exactly what they have in mind.

This will describe all of the new alternatives CHSRA has come up with as a result of their meetings.

Yes, the San Fernando Valley is the recipient of this controversial super project.  Before all of you City dwellers’ eyes glaze over … this will also affect you … not where you live but in your pocketbook because there will be tax payer subsidies.

I also checked to see how our City Council Members and State and Assembly representatives, whose constituents would be impacted,  were handling what promises to be almost as bigger issue as the San Fernando Valley trying to secede from Los Angeles.

Assembly member Patty Lopez, whose district includes most of the areas affected, has been holding a series of meetings for her constituents.  One held last week brought together Neighborhood Councils, Members of Valley Vote, Chambers of Commerce.

This is what she said:

“In an earlier statement, I declared my opposition to the high speed rail routes proposed and still disagree with the routes. To date I have heard the numerous and overwhelming concerns raised by my communities.   I share the serious concerns of my constituency as the four routes proposed not only severely impact urban areas of my district negatively, but could potentially devastate rural and natural lands. 

“After meeting with constituents, other stakeholders, and reviewing proposed routes, I have been made aware of the clear impacts to local businesses, properties, and overall quality of life. Additionally, many of my communitys questions still have gone unanswered; communities continue to remain frustrated with the process; and are still unclear as to their options or the next steps. 

“To aid my district through this process, I plan to actively pursue several possibilities.  I have directed staff to coordinate a meeting with the High Speed Rail Authority, the Administration, and to plan more community meetings to further hear the concerns of my District.” 

Both City Council members Felipe Fuentes and Nury Martinez have asked for more information and are holding meetings.  State Senator Bob Hertzberg seems to think it will make LA more cosmopolitan.  Sunland- Tujunga Neighborhood Council sent a letter to CHSRA presenting an excellent case against the routes.   They warned of severe environmental concerns as well as public safety issues such as building tunnels over earthquake faults.

Really caught in the cross hairs is the City of San Fernando.  They remind me of the children’s book, “The Little Engine that Could.”   This working class City, which is more than 90% Latino, has  been struggling with development problems; trying to attract more entertainment venues; improve their schools, among other things and now they have to contend with this.  They sit directly in the path of one of the proposed routes.

San Fernando City Mayor Joel Fajardo said the train would bisect his city, leaving only two crossing points separated by a massive sound wall.

“They would never propose a bullet train to go through Old Town Pasadena, Third Street Promenade or Rodeo [drive]” he said. “Yet they have no problem with this proposal if it is through a working class community like San Fernando.” 

San Fernando Mayor Pro Temp, Sylvia Ballin, told state officials the city would lose $1.3 million a year if the plan goes forward. Residents in the small, working-class city also worry that high sound walls expected to be constructed around the rails will become an eyesore. 

The bottom line is … you are not really welcome!” Ballin said. 

Opposition has also grown in several other Los Angeles-area neighborhoods that intersect with the planned route.  It is turning into a public relations nightmare.

Here’s a thought voiced by many:

 “If we want to go to San Francisco in an hour we can fly!  Why not take that money and fix our freeways, highways, bridges etc. which will benefit all Californians … not just those who are commuters, tourists or legislators going to and from Sacramento.”

I will continue to follow this and let you know what I find.

As always comments welcome.

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist.  She is a former Publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.comOriginally published on CityWatchLA.)

A Surge Against Proposition 13

prop 13In June of 1978 California governor Jerry Brown opposed Proposition 13, but voters passed the measure in a landslide. California’s ruling class has never ceased to attack it, and these attacks are certain to escalate with new ammunition from Nathan Gardels of the Berggruen Institute.

“The Proposition 13 property tax revolt of 1978 still defines the fiscal framework of California,” Mr. Gardels recently wrote in theSacramento Bee. “That revolt was sustained largely by an older, white middle class reasonably, at the time, seeking to protect their assets from a bloating state.”

Mr. Gardels is right about the “bloating state,” but he neglects to explain that government growth and inflation were taxing people out of their homes. In these conditions it was reasonable that people would seek to protect their assets, but for Mr. Gardels, these were mainly older people.

In reality, young first-time homebuyers championed Proposition 13. After making the biggest purchase of their lives, in a time of rampant inflation and high unemployment, young people did not aspire to be saddled with onerous and ever-rising property taxes. That’s why nearly two-thirds of California voters, Asians, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans among them, decided to limit those taxes.

Californians might recall that, under Proposition 13, property tax rates could not exceed 1 percent of the property’s market value and could not grow by more than 2 percent per year unless the property was sold. And unlike the California Coastal Act of 1976, which created the Coastal Commission, Proposition 13 created no new state agencies and included no mandate for new state spending.

Proposition 13 applied to all Californians, regardless of ethnicity, but for Gardels it was mainly about older “white” people. These old folks may have had a legitimate complaint, but in his view they represent the past.

“The political constituency of California’s future,” Mr. Gardels explained, “is largely Latino, Asian and youthful.” And this constituency of the future “is seeking to build their assets through upward mobility.” And for Mr. Gardels, that changes the equation.

“For aspirational constituencies striving to reach the middle class,” he wrote, “the most important thing is an opportunity web and trampoline to boost their chances.” Trouble is, “even though California has one of the most progressive tax structures in the nation, inequality is rising and dashing hopes.”

So if progressive taxes, which means higher and more punitive taxes, are not serving as a trampoline and opportunity web, what might do the job?

Mr. Gardels wants a new philosophy of governance that focuses on the “overall progressive outcome.” In this vision, the very high state income tax should be reduced “while extending a sales tax on services.” Politicians will be happy to oblige.

Proposition 13, meanwhile, prevents the state from inflicting punitive property taxes on all Californians. It is one of the few measures actually to limit the power of government.

If ruling-class types find it objectionable, there is something they can do: Craft a measure that nixes Proposition 13, pegs property taxes at 10 percent of the property’s value, and allows increases of 15 percent per year. Put that on the 2016 ballot and let California voters decide.

If facing the people proves too daunting, maybe the Berggruen Institute—a group “dedicated to the design and implementation of new ideas of good governance” —can offer a 12-step plan to trim California’s bloated government. As Mr. Gardels makes clear, the government’s appetite for more of the people’s earnings remains ravenous as ever.

Lloyd Billingsley is a policy fellow with Independent Institute in Oakland. He and his family bought their first house in California in 1977. Originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily.

Cap-and-Trade Funds Targeted for High-Speed Rail Project

High Speed RailBills being introduced that monitor or change terms for the state’s high-speed rail project are a rarity. However, there are two bills brewing in the Legislature.

One has a shot at passing. The other doesn’t.

Senate Bill 400 would require the California High-Speed Rail Authority to use at least 25 percent of its cap-and-trade funds for projects to reduce or offset construction emissions. The bill comes as two groups have brought legal challenges to the state’s cap-and-trade program and the state’s plan for measuring emissions from the high-speed rail project. The bill traces its origins to the powerful Hispanic caucus and is expected to pass in the largely pro-rail legislature.

SB400, introduced by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, has been approved in the Senate and is moving through committees in the Assembly.

Last year the Legislature appropriated 25 percent of the state’s revenues from cap-and-trade auctions to the high-speed rail project. SB400 would reduce construction funds to 18.75 percent of the revenues, with the remainder going to “reduce or offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions directly associated with the construction of the high-speed rail project and provide a co-benefit of improving air quality,” according to a Senate analysis of the bill.

The analysis suggests that this bill might save the cap-and-trade program, which is being challenged by two lawsuits.

Lawsuits against AB32 and HSR

A suit brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation, which favors limited government and “sensible environmental policies,” claims that the very existence of the cap-and-trade program is an illegal tax. The case is on appeal and expected to be heard in the fall.

A second suit asserts that a state plan to reduce emissions improperly calculated the impact of the high-speed rail project — which the plaintiffs allege will actually contribute to greenhouse gases instead of reduce them.

The plaintiffs in their complaint say that the state’s estimates “were neither real, permanent, quantifiable or verifiable but were instead illusory because in reality the construction of the (rail) project would result in a significant increase in (greenhouse gas) emissions prior to 2030 or beyond.”

The suit is being brought by the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, a nonprofit environmental group.

Cap and trade bailing out high-speed rail project

The rail project is not slated to be operational by 2020, which is the deadline in state law to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels.

The Senate analysis points out that state law restricts the use of cap-and-trade funds.

“The Constitution requires that a clear nexus exist between an activity for which a mitigation fee is used and the adverse effects related to the activity on which that fee is levied. …

“It is important that legislation allocating cap-and-trade revenues ensure that the funds are being used to reduce (greenhouse gas) emissions. If opponents of the program can convince the courts that the revenues are not being used appropriately, the entire cap-and-trade program could be jeopardized.”

The analysis hints that the rail program’s use of cap-and-trade funds, as currently outlined, doesn’t meet legal standards, and that passage of the bill would shore up the legal standing of the program and help the state win the pending court cases.

“If opponents of the program can convince the courts that the revenues are not being used appropriately, the entire cap-and-trade program could be jeopardized,” the analysis reads.

The cap-and-trade program is estimated to bring in as much as $2 billion a year in fees.

Further analysis on SB400

An analysis in the Assembly shows that some lawmakers remain sympathetic to the aims of the bill but not as positive on its potential effects.

The bill would significantly drive up the cost of the rail project by reducing its only stable revenue stream, according to a summary of transportation committee members’ concerns. This could threaten completion and jeopardize any future environmental benefits.

“The project is already sorely underfunded,” the analysis states.

The analysis also points out that SB400 is intended to offset environmental impacts from construction but does not impose any requirement that the redirected money, approximately $125 million, be spent in communities near the construction zones. The bill could result in “millions of dollars being spent in Southern California, hundreds of miles from the high-speed rail construction sites.”

In other words, it could result in a money grab for other transit projects in Southern California, not the “disadvantaged communities” proposed in the bill.

Republicans in the Legislature have been unsuccessful for the past three years with more than a dozen bills that attempted to manage, change or end the high-speed rail program. All failed on party-line votes to get out of committee. In fact, Rep. Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, has a graveyard with little tomb stone markers set up in his backyard for failed bills he’s introduced on various subjects including high-speed rail.

Despite the fact that Senate Bill 3 has bipartisan sponsorship, from Sens. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, and Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, it’s expected to suffer a similar fate.

The bill would direct the Legislature to approve putting high-speed rail back on the ballot. It would redirect high-speed rail funds to retiring the debt incurred from the issuance and sale of bonds. It would also require that unsold bonds use half the net proceeds for funding repair and new construction projects on state highways and freeways. The other half would be used to fund projects on local streets and roads.

(Originally posted on CalWatchdog)