California Taxes, Over-Regulation Force 1,800 Businesses To Relocate

Leaving CaliforniaCalifornia – notorious for high taxes and a stifling regulatory environment – reportedly saw 1,800 businesses either relocate or disinvest from the state in 2016.

Business relocation consultant Joe Vranich wrote concerning the results of a new study he authored that he is advising clients “to leave the business-hostile state because its business climate continues to worsen,” according to Investors Business Daily.

Vranich, president of Spectrum Location Solutions LLC, noted that the 1,800 “disinvestment events” that occurred in 2016 were the most since 2008.

Additionally, 13,000 companies left the state during that nine-year period.

“Departures are understandable when year after year CEOs nationwide surveyed by Chief Executive Magazine have declared California the worst state in which to do business,” Vranich said.

“The top reason to leave the state no longer is high taxes,” he said. “The legal climate has become so difficult that companies should consider locating in jurisdictions where they will be treated fairly.”

One business regulation Vranich cited was California’s new Immigrant Worker Protection Act, which fines companies for following federal immigration law.

The consultant pointed out the law creates a dilemma for business owners: face fines either from the state or from the federal government.

“Think about it. California may penalize someone in business who is a legal citizen operating a legal business that is in compliance with every federal, state and local law, who pays state and local taxes, and who creates employment – and all that counts for nothing in the state’s eyes,” Vranich said. “Signs are that California politicians’ contempt for business will persist.”

Vranich argued that it’s not just this new law, it’s the plethora of other laws and regulations California businesses must comply with and the concern of what may be coming down the line.

The American Tort Reform Foundation said California is among the nation’s worst “Judicial Hellholes” for businesses.

According to the Vranich, three previous California governors – Gray Davis, Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian – have cited earlier versions of his business climate study to raise awareness of why companies are leaving the Golden State.

The top states where businesses are relocating, ranked in order, are: Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Virginia.

The top 10 urban areas gaining from the California exodus are Austin, Texas; Reno, Nevada; Las Vegas; Phoenix; Seattle; Dallas; Portland, Oregon; Denver; San Antonio; and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Among the businesses that have left the state in recent years are Toyota, Occidental Petroleum, Chevron, Nestle USA, Carl’s Jr., Jamba Juice and Numira Biosciences, according to Chief Executive Magazine.

There was a net outflow of approximately 143,000 Californians leaving in 2016 over people moving in from other states, based on numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The only reason the state’s population is not decreasing overall is due to the 100,000-plus people per year immigrating into California from other countries and the birth rate exceeding the death rate in the state.

In addition to business regulations driving people from the state, The Sacramento Bee reported that California lawmakers are concerned about the wealthiest residents fleeing due to high taxes.

California has the highest top income tax bracket in the nation at 13.3 percent, and its treasury receives a disproportionate 44 percent of income tax revenues from the top 1 percent of wage earners.

Vranich said he is glad he took his own advice and moved his business from California to the Pittsburgh suburb of Cranberry Township.

“I moved for three reasons — taxes, regulations and quality-of-life,” he said. “First, I’ll have greater freedom in my business now that I’m free of California’s notorious regulatory environment and threats of frivolous lawsuits that hurt small businesses like mine.”

“Finally, we are enjoying a superior qualify-of-life here. We bought a house larger than what we had in California for about half the cost. We can afford to engage in more activities because the cost-of-living in Cranberry Township is 44 percent lower than in Irvine.”

This article was originally published by Western Journalism

Hunger has gotten worse in San Francisco despite $48 million spent

Homeless hungry food“Food is a basic human right.” That was part of a resolution passed in 2013 by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors which pledged to end hunger in the city by 2020.

Five years later, food insecurity has only gotten worse in San Francisco, according to a 200-page report released by the city’s Food Security Task Force Thursday. The city has increased spending on nutrition programs by $48 million in that time period; yet the extra meals and groceries are still not enough to meet the needs of the estimated 227,000 San Franciscans who are at high risk of food insecurity, according to the report.

Chronicling statistics district by district, the report finds food insecurity especially acute among pregnant women, low-income families with children, seniors, people with disabilities and those in insecure housing. While the escalated cost of housing is the biggest reason for the increase, the issue overall is extremely complex, said Paula Jones, an author of the report and director of food security at the S.F. Department of Public Health. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

Vaping in Danger in California if These Bills Pass in 2019

vaping 2California lawmakers on both the left and the right are working up plans to restrict vaping in the coming year, citing their worries that flavored tobacco in e-cigarettes entices too many young people to take up a potentially harmful habit.

Two proposals, Senate Bills 38 and 39, would ban the sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products in the state and require e-cigarette vendors to deliver their products in “conspicuously marked” containers and only with the signature of a person 21 or older.

The pending bills would not affect the sale of unflavored e-cigarette products. SB 38 defines flavored tobacco as “any tobacco product that contains a constituent that imparts a characterizing flavor.”

In the Assembly, AB 131 would prohibit e-cigarette manufacturers from advertising or promoting products that appeal to children, such as ts using cartoons. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Tom Steyer Very Likely to Make 2020 Presidential Run

Tom SteyerSignaling he’s very likely to run for president, Bay Area hedge fund billionaire and progressive activist Tom Steyer has begun searching for key aides to help him as he seeks the 2020 Democratic nomination.

A recent Linked-In ad was traced by the New York Times to Steyer’s nascent campaign. ”A high profile political campaign based on the West Coast is seeking highly skilled political professionals to join our national campaign team,” it said. The ad sought state directors for New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – the next three primary and caucus states after Iowa kicks off the nomination process with caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020. A Steyer aide confirmed to the Times that he was responsible for the posting.

Steyer, 60, a former Yale soccer team captain who became a Californian after enrolling at the Stanford graduate business school, had a relatively low-key role in state and national politics until 2012. That’s when he handed over many of his financial responsibilities and began aggressively advocating for bolder environmental programs, among other causes.

‘Need to Impeach’ campaign raises national profile

This year, Steyer’s national profile has shot up after he spent at least $40 million on a “Need to Impeach” cable and online campaign in which he stars in advertisements criticizing the conduct of President Donald Trump. The campaign has gathered more than 6 million signatures in an online petition urging Congress to remove the Republican Trump.

Steyer could be competing for the nomination against as many as three other California Democrats: Sen. Kamala Harris, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Rep. Eric Swalwell of the East Bay area near San Francisco.

Harris has by far the highest national profile of the three, having won headlines as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In online prediction markets, Harris, Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have all been the leader to win the nomination at various points over the past two months.

Harris 5th in first CNN survey of Iowa Democrats

Harris didn’t fare as well in the first CNN/Des Moines Register poll of Iowa Democrats released over the weekend. Former Vice President Joe Biden led with 32 percent, Sanders was next with 19 percent, O’Rourke had 11 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren had 8 percent, with Harris in fifth at 5 percent.

But the former San Francisco district attorney can take solace in two facts. The first is that polls before the Iowa caucuses have a history of swinging wildly, and there is still more than 13 months until voting. The second is that African American candidates tend to do better in more diverse states than Iowa, which is 91 percent white.

While Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won the 2008 caucuses with 38 percent of the vote, that was among his 10 worst showings in primaries and caucuses as he went on to win the nomination. In 1988, civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson got8.8 percent of the Iowa caucus vote versus the 29.4 percent he got in the overall Democratic nomination process as the runner-up to the nominee, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. Jackson only fared worse in two other states.

In the Register-CNN poll, Steyer and Swalwell got 1 percent each. Garcetti was at 0 percent, receiving the fewest votes of any of the 20 listed Democratic candidates.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Political Corruption Grabbing Headlines in L.A.

Jose HuizarAfter a brief lull in 2017, there’s now another embarrassing chapter in Los Angeles County’s emergence as an epicenter of American political corruption.

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar has been stripped of all his council committee assignments after having his home and office raided by the FBI earlier this month. Law enforcement authorities have been tight-lipped about their probe so far, but speculation has focused on Huizar’s close relationships with developers and his now-former role as chair of the powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which reviews all large development projects that come before the City Council.

It’s the second time in six months that the city’s planning approval process has faced criminal scrutiny. In June, it was revealed that the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office was investigating the city Department of Building and Safety over allegations of “unauthorized purchases, falsified invoices and $24,900 in payments to a consulting company that did not exist,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Five members of the department’s technology office have resigned or retired, including the division’s chief, Giovani Dacumos, who was named in most of the allegations.

Huizar replaced Antonio Villaraigosa as the 14th District’s councilman in a 2005 special election after Villaraigosa became mayor. The district includes most of downtown Los Angeles as well as Boyle Heights, Highland Park and Eagle Rock.

The first Mexican immigrant elected to the City Council, Huizar has repeatedly won re-election easily. But his political standing has taken several hits this fall. Besides the FBI raid, two former staffers have sued him, saying they faced retaliation when complaining about Huizar favoring an aide he was allegedly having an affair with as well as requiring them to do personal favors like picking up his dry cleaning or moving his wife’s car so it wouldn’t be ticketed. Huizar had previously admitted to having an affair with an aide in 2013, but he was cleared in a related sexual harassment lawsuit.

Misconduct at 10 cities and water district since 2006

Huizar joins a long list of officials – mostly Democrats – who have faced serious accusations of wrongdoing in Los Angeles County since 2006. A 2016 overview by CalWatchdog found 21 officials with 10 cities and a water agency had been targeted by law enforcement over that span.

The list: Bell, Carson, Central Basin Municipal Water District, Commerce, Cudahy, Lynwood, Maywood, Montebello, South El Monte, South Gate and Vernon.

The range of offenses ranged from outrageous – the Bell city manager and City Council looting the city treasury of tens of millions of dollars – to the mundane – council members using city government credit cards at strip clubs and for party weekends in Las Vegas.

The main theory about why the county has so much corruption has to do with the inability of watchdogs to keep track of public officials’ wrongdoing, especially with many local newspapers disappearing. There are 88 incorporated cities and more than 500 government agencies and special districts in the county’s 4,083 square miles.

Study says Chicago only region with more convictions

This has led to the argument that the corruption is no surprise given that Los Angeles County is the most populous in the country. But a 2012 University of Illinois study of all federal corruption convictions since 1976 found the L.A. region was ninth in per-capita rates of corruption convictions – meaning they were far more common than in most metro areas. L.A. was second to Chicago in total convictions.

Bill Boyarsky, a veteran journalist who served on the city of Los Angeles’ ethics committee, told Southern California Public Radio in 2012 that he was unsurprised by the findings.

“There’s always been a long, long history of corruption and bending the law in the Southland,” he said. “This area is so vast [and] there’s so much going on that the corruption hasn’t been shown-up yet.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Gov-Elect Gavin Newsom faces pressure to cut $77 billion high-speed rail

Gov. Jerry Brown, Anne GustA new state audit raises questions about flaws in California’s $77 billion high-speed rail project, adding pressure on Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom to consider cutting back the construction of the train or make other major changes.

The independent audit is the key focus of a Joint Legislative Audit Committee oversight hearing planned for Thursday in Sacramento, where top officials from the California High-Speed Rail Authority are expected to be questioned by lawmakers.

According to the audit, the state risks having to pay back as much as $3.5 billion in federal funds on the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles project.

“Whatever fantasy the next governor has in mind, he has to deal with a huge multibillion-dollar shortfall between getting anything between Central California and Silicon Valley that is high speed,” said Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Republican from Fresno and longtime critic of the bullet-train project who pushed for the audit. …

Click here to read the full article from CNBC

Elon Musk’s “Loop” Faces Trouble While the Bullet Train Rolls On

Hyperloop 1Call this a tale of two transit systems.

There is Elon Musk’s electric-powered platforms or skates called the Loop designed to shoot cars or mass transit vehicles holding up to 16 people through tunnels at 150 miles per hour throughout Los Angeles. Yet, a crucial piece of the network through the agonizingly crowded 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass was scuttled because of a lawsuit dealing with state environmental laws. Then there is the state’s high-speed rail project that marches forward despite numerous environmental lawsuits and funding issues.

Whether Musk’s transit system would work as described is not proven. Maybe it will run into some of the same hurdles as the high-speed rail—cost overruns, skepticism that the train can reach both its passenger goals and promised speeds.

Yet, environmental laws disrupted the Musk project but have not knocked out the bullet train.

Make no mistake, we are told both projects are designed to help the environment. The bullet train will take travelers out of their automobiles while the Musk transit system is moving vehicles around faster so they are not idling, spewing pollutants.

The Loop fell victim to a state environmental law that says infrastructure projects cannot be approved in a piecemeal fashion. Musk had sought avoidance of environmental review on what he called a stand-alone project but a couple of neighborhood associations representing areas near Sepulveda Boulevard on the west side of Los Angeles sued. Musk settled the lawsuit and put aside the tunneling project. His Boring Company has other tunneling projects in the LA area in the works, including one to run from Union Station to Dodger Stadium.

In the meantime, the high-speed rail is facing up to seven lawsuits but has not yet been “de-railed” by any of them.

The train authority also must deal with a recent audit of the project by the state auditor critical of cost overruns and building delays.

Today in Sacramento, California High Speed Rail Authority leaders will respond to the audit before a hearing of the Assembly Transportation and Joint Legislative Audit Committees.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno who called for the audit plans to examine the authority on a number of issues raised in the audit including whether contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars were properly fulfilled; and whether the authority will complete it initial 119-mile segment of the track by December 2020 so as to avoid the loss of $3.5 billion in federal funds.

Despite the audit and the lawsuits based on environmental concerns, the high-speed rail moves on. However, an environmental laws disrupt the potentially more effective Loop plan dealing with the environment.

It helps to have a powerful advocate on the side of the bullet train. How the bullet train fares with Governor Jerry Brown letting go the reins of power is interesting to contemplate.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California’s right-to-die law upheld by state appeals court

assisted suicideA state appeals court rejected a challenge Tuesday to California’s right-to-die law for terminally ill patients, overturning a judge’s ruling in May that had briefly blocked enforcement of the law.

The statute, in effect since June 2016, allows a dying adult patient to take lethal drugs that a doctor has prescribed. Before that, two doctors must have determined that the patient would die within six months and was mentally competent to choose death.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia halted enforcement of the law in May, ruling that state lawmakers had illegally considered and passed the legislation during a special session devoted to health care. Allowing patients to take their own lives has no apparent connection to improving Californians’ health care, Ottolia said.

Bills passed in a special session require the same majority vote as in normal legislative sessions, but are generally reviewed more quickly and take effect sooner than in regular sessions. However, the right-to-die bill, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in October 2015, was drafted to take effect eight months later. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

Trump officials open door to fracking in California

fracking oil gasThe Trump administration is starting the process of opening up large swaths of land in California to hydraulic fracturing.

In a notice issued Wednesday to the Federal Register, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it intends to analyze the impact of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, on publicly owned land throughout the state.

The area in question spans 400,000 acres of public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estates throughout a number of California counties including Fresno, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.

The notice of intent says BLM will begin the scoping process for a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which will determine the effects of fracking on the environment. Fracking is a technology used to release oil and gas from land. The administration’s intent is to eventually open up public land to new lease sales.

The announcement follows a 2017 lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity. That lawsuit challenged a 2015 attempt by the federal government to finalize a resource management plan that acknowledged fracking. In its settlement, BLM promised that it would first provide an environmental impact statement before considering fracking. …

Click here to read the full article from The Hill

California’s Net Neutrality Bill Faces a Grim Fate

internetAll eyes are on California on Wednesday as a State Assembly committee considers moving forward a net neutrality bill that could lead to the strongest open internet protections in the country.

If passed in its current form and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, the legislation could set a new nationwide standard of comprehensive protections to replace the Obama-era rules thrown out by the Trump administration. But a report issued late Tuesday by the Assembly’s Communications and Conveyance Committee suggests lawmakers plan to gut key provisions of the bill.

Groups supporting net neutrality, such as Fight for the Future, had warned earlier on Tuesday that Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, a Democrat from Los Angeles who chairs the committee, was planning to introduce amendments that would strip the bill of its most aggressive protections. They accused him of succumbing to pressures from AT&T, which has donated to his campaigns.

The group blasted the chairman’s report ahead of the hearing.

“If Assemblyman Santiago does not change course, he will become the first Democrat to actively help the Trump administration dismantle net neutrality protections that are essential for a free and open Internet,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future.

The contest in California has drawn the attention of national Democrats, who had hoped the California bill would help spur their own efforts to restore federal net neutrality protections passed in 2015, which the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission threw out in December. The rules officially expired last week. …

Click here to read the full article from CNET