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

California is full of psychopaths, ranks 2nd in nation, study finds

Ever feel like there’s something sinister lurking behind the crunchy granola, yoga-loving, avocado-eating facade of your fellow Californians? Now there’s research to back you up.

California is among the two U.S. states with the highest concentration of psychopaths, according to a working study from Southern Methodist University released on the Social Science Research network this week. The study looks at trends in personality traits across areas (the study hasn’t yet gone through the full peer review process, so take the findings with a grain of salt).

The only places with more psychopaths? Connecticut (thanks, hedge funds!) and, shocker, the District of Columbia. Other highly psychopathic states include New Jersey, New York and Wyoming, while West Virginia, Vermont and Tennessee are among the lease psychopathic states.

“The presence of psychopaths in District of Columbia is consistent with the conjecture found in Murphy (2016) that psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere,” the author writes.

The author, Ryan Murphy, combined the findings of two past papers, one that mapped distribution of the “big five” personality traits (neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion and openness to experience) across states and one that tracked which of those five personality traits most closely corresponded with psychopathy, to get the results. …

Click here to read the full article from KCRA

Gavin Newsom Embodies California Liberalism

Gavin newsomGavin Newsom — the former San Francisco mayor, current lieutenant governor, and likely next governor of California — embodies Golden State liberalism: the perfect appearance, the bear-hug embrace of identity politics, the celebration of Silicon Valley moguls tempered by hand-wringing about income inequality, the grandiose, fanciful plans for building the state into a modern utopia.

This is no accident. For better or for worse, Newsom has already done a lot to shape modern California. As San Francisco’s mayor from 2004 to 2011, he pushed the outer boundary of Democratic party politics leftward. His first gubernatorial-campaign ad reminded viewers that he issued same-sex marriage licenses way back in 2004, in calculated defiance of state law. As mayor, he banned plastic bags, the use of Styrofoam in restaurants’ takeout containers, and sales of cigarettes in convenience stores, pharmacies, grocery stories, and big-box stores. He signed laws mandating composting and requiring retailers to display the radiation levels of the cellphones they sold. He gave 400 city employees the authority to write citations for littering. He proposed, but never succeeded in passing, a surcharge on all drinks with high-fructose corn syrup.

Since taking over as lieutenant governor in 2011, Newsom hasn’t had a ton of governing responsibility. In 2012 and 2013, he found the time to host a weekly show on Al Gore’s old Current TV. The Los Angeles Times’ limp endorsement of Newsom in 2014 is unintentionally hilarious: “Being lieutenant governor mostly serves as a perch for gubernatorial candidates-in-waiting. Nevertheless, voters are asked every four years to choose among the aspirants, so here goes . . .”

With little to do in his day job, for the past few years Newsom put his energies into promoting state initiatives. In 2016, he supported and the state adopted Proposition 47, which made just about any crime involving less than $950 — shoplifting, grand theft, forgery, fraud, receiving stolen property or writing bad checks — a misdemeanor for sentencing instead of a felony. Also that year he proposed Proposition 63, prohibiting the possession of large-capacity gun magazines and requiring certain individuals to pass a background check in order to purchase ammunition. The measure passed, but in June 2017, a federal judge issued an injunction, saying that it probably violates the U.S. Constitution. (California’s attorney general is appealing the injunction.)

Yet as Newsom and his like-minded allies unleashed a cornucopia of bans and restrictions and mandates from San Francisco and Sacramento, quite a few Californians started falling out of love with the state. More Americans are leaving California than joining it, concluding that the cost of living, taxes, regulation, traffic, and other problems are just too unbearable, despite the gorgeous coastlines and weather and everything else that once made the Golden State so golden. The state has the highest poverty rate in the country after accounting for its stratospheric cost of living, and the second-highest housing costs, behind only Hawaii.

All of this is probably something of an abstraction to Newsom. His has been a life of privilege that would get a typical Republican office-seeker torn to shreds. His grandfather, William Newsom, was close friends with Pat Brown, the governor of California from 1959 to 1967 and the father of current governor Jerry Brown. His father, also named William, attended St. Ignatius prep school with oil heir Gordon Getty. In 1975, Jerry Brown picked the younger William Newsom to be a state judge. He remained a close, trusted friend to the Getty family, and when young Gavin Newsom had entrepreneurial dreams, the Gettys were happy to invest. In 2003, the San Francisco Chronicle found that “Getty, or trusts and firms he controls, is lead investor on 10 of Newsom’s 11 businesses.”

Newsom likes to describe himself as a small-business owner with “a strong bias for entrepreneurs, a strong bias for those putting themselves on the line and taking risks.” One wonders just how risky a business venture can be when the Getty family and their fortune is so consistently ready to help out. …

Click here to read the full article from the National Review

Out with soda, juice and chocolate milk – California could become first state to restrict kids’ meals

Kids mealAs the food court at a Sacramento mall buzzed with families on a recent summer day, Emily Wickelgren and her daughter Thea were enjoying lunch at Subway. The 7-year-old opted for water with her sandwich instead of soda or juice.

“I do have unusual kids in that neither one of them likes soda and they don’t really like juice,” said Wickelgren, the mom of two daughters.

This is what many legislators hope will be the new norm for more California families. Under a bill advancing in the Capitol, restaurants could offer only water or milk with meals marketed for children. Not soda. Not juice. Not chocolate milk.

Those sugary drinks would still be available, at no extra cost, but only upon request. They couldn’t be advertised alongside kids’ meals or offered as a default option. If the bill becomes law, cashiers would ask customers ordering a Happy Meal at McDonald’s, for instance, if they want water, milk or a non-dairy substitute like almond milk. California would become the first state in the nation with such a requirement.

It’s the Legislature’s latest attempt to combat obesity and diabetes by limiting how much soda Californians drink. To illustrate the point at a Tuesday hearing,  Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento held up a jar containing 9.5 teaspoons of sugar—the same amount found in a 12 ounce can of soda.

Research shows that kids often get extra calories in their diet from sugary drinks like soda. The extra sugar puts them at a higher risk for tooth decay, type two diabetes and obesity, according to Public Health Advocates, a sponsor of the bill. Some health experts think changing the drinks offered with kids meals will cause a long-term behavioral shift, leading other kids to become more like Thea and prefer water over pop.

“It’s a thoughtful approach to giving families choice, making sure the choice is a healthful one but not taking away the right if they want to order the sugar-sweetened beverage,” said Sen. Bill Monning, a Carmel Democrat who has been fighting the soda industry for years.

His past legislation — including bills to tax sugary drinks and slap warning labels on them — died under strong opposition from the beverage industry. But his latest bill to regulate the drinks offered with kids meals has faced surprisingly little push-back, other than criticism that it empowers the government to make decisions that should be made by parents. It passed the Senate with bipartisan support and cleared the Assembly Health Committee this week without opposition.

The California Restaurant Association has not taken a position on the bill, and the American Beverage Association is neutral, writing in a letter to Monning that it “is committed to increasing access to beverages with less sugar and smaller portions in stores and restaurants.”

The group has already embraced guidelines that say elementary schools should offer only water, milk and 100 percent juice, which may explain why it’s not fighting the proposal to get soda out of kids meals at restaurants.

Some fast food chains are voluntarily taking similar steps. McDonald’s stopped advertising Happy Meals with soda in 2013 and in February removed chocolate milk as a default option, though it’s still available upon request. The meals are now advertised with plain low-fat milk or an apple juice drink that has half the sugar of 100 percent apple juice.

At the local level, cities have started to tackle the issue too. Berkeley passed an ordinance last year with the same requirements as Monning’s bill. Other cities—including Stockton, Daly City and Long Beach—have passed similar ordinances.

Nonetheless, the bill still raises debate about how much government is too much.

“I trust parents and I thought parents can make those decisions,” said Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican from Alpine who voted against the bill.

Jennifer Nevarez, a Sacramento mother of four, echoed the same sentiment when told about the proposal at the mall’s food court.

“That’s not going to work,” she said. “I feel like it should be the parents’ choice.”

Nevarez said she only buys water and apple juice for her children at home, so the soda is typically a treat when the family eats out.

Still, some experts worry that drinking sugary drinks at a young age can cause problems later on.

“What we know is that the eating habits we establish when we’re young, often carry with us as we get older,” said Flojaune Cofer, director of state policy and research for Public Health Advocates. “If we consume more sugar, we tend to crave more sugary things when we get older.”

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

Too Many Teachers are Clueless on Issues Relating to Their Profession

Teachers unionIn 2006, I co-founded the California Teachers Empowerment Network, whose mission is to give educators unbiased information and to combat union spin and outright lies. While we have helped a good number of teachers, there are still way too many who are in the dark about issues that affect their professional life. A recent poll by Educators for Excellence (E4E) exemplifies this sad state of affairs.

E4E released partial survey results on May 23rd (the questions were posed in late April-early May) and the full report is due August 1st. One of the stunners is that 78 percent of all teachers had heard not much (21 percent) or nothing (57 percent) about the Janus v AFSCME Supreme Court case which would free public employees nationwide from being forced to pay dues to a teachers union. Also, 47 percent of union members said they had heard nothing about the lawsuit.

A claim could be made that many teachers don’t need to know about the litigation, as they live in right-to-work states and will not be affected directly by the imminent ruling. But given the magnitude of the case, the numbers are still startling.

The lack of teacher awareness is in part due to their unions, which don’t seem to feel the need to inform their members that they may have a right to refrain from forking over $1,000 or so a year to them. While the unions are not legally bound to clue in their teachers, you’d think the organizations that constantly showboat their affection for educators would feel some moral obligation to do so. But they don’t. And when union leaders talk about the case, they often lie.

For example, after attending the Janus oral arguments in February, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said, “I listened as the right wing launched attack after attack on unions and on what collective bargaining gains for working people, those they serve and their communities. Indeed, Justice Sotomayor nailed the right wing’s argument, pointing out, ‘You’re basically arguing, do away with unions.’”

If that’s all a teacher heard about the case, she would be horribly misinformed. The lawsuit has absolutely nothing to do with collective bargaining (CB) or eliminating unions. It is simply about giving teachers and other public employees a choice whether or not to join and pay them as a condition of employment.

Another question of note from the E4E survey asks teachers if they concur with the following: “Without collective bargaining, the working conditions and salaries of teachers would be much worse.” A whopping 86 percent of those polled agreed (somewhat or strongly) with that statement.

But are teachers really informed about all the data that show that CB agreements actually don’t do anything good for their wages, and in fact may serve to suppress them? Just this past March, yet another study found that across the country, after CB laws went into effect, there was little change in teacher salary or education spending. The study by Agustina Paglayan, a professor at University of California, San Diego, was hardly the first research that showed the inconsequential or detrimental effects of CB.

In 2011, Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli compared teachers’ salaries in school districts across the country which allow CB with those that don’t. Using data collected by the National Council on Teacher Quality, he looked at 100 of the largest districts from each of the 50 states and found that teachers who worked in districts where the union was not involved actually made more than those who were in CB districts. According to Petrilli, “Teachers in non-collective bargaining districts actually earn more than their union-protected peers – $64,500 on average versus $57,500.”

In a detailed 2009 study, “The Effect of Teachers’ Unions on Education Production: Evidence from Union Election Certifications in Three Midwestern States,” Stanford Professor Michael Lovenheim concluded, “I find unions have no effect on teacher pay.”

While Lovenheim’s study used data from just three states, Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson, using national data, came to the same conclusion.

So, according to Paglayan, Petrilli, Lovenheim and Coulson, CB is inconsequential at best, and could actually damage a educator’s bottom line. Randi Weingarten won’t tell teachers any of this.

Weingarten also won’t tell her members about Clovis, a city in California, whose teachers have been never unionized. Yet, educators there have a voice and a role in governance. Instead of a union, they have an elected Faculty Senate, in which each school has a representative. The mission of the Faculty Senate is to be “an effective advocate for teachers at all levels of policy making, procedures, and expenditures, in partnership with our administrators, fellow employees, and community as a quality educational team.”

Teacher salaries are competitive in Clovis. While starting teachers make a few thousand dollars a year more in neighboring unionized Fresno, the differences dissipate as teachers rack up more time on the job. And, while Fresno teachers are saddled with payments of over $1,100 a year to the Fresno Teachers Association, Clovis teachers aren’t burdened with union dues.

The E4E survey, among other things, points to teachers’ ignorance on many issues that directly affect them. Especially with a Janus decision imminent, it is imperative that they become more informed. Not listening to Randi Weingarten and other union leaders’ disinformation and fabrications would be a great first step.

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

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center

The Median Home Price In California Now Exceeds $600,000

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image14115451The median price for a home in California has topped the $600,000 mark for the first time ever, according to the latest report from the California Association of Realtors.

You can blame the Bay Area and other red hot high-cost areas for the increase. There are now five counties out of the nine-county Bay Area where the median price is above a million dollars. And that could go higher looking at demand, which has led to many bidding contests.

California Association of Realtors President Steve White says that in May, homes in San Francisco sold on average 18 percent over list price. “That’s pretty common in those high cost Bay Area counties,” he says.

In Sacramento County, the median price for a home last month was $375,000 – that’s up 1.6 percent from April, and up 9.6 percent from May 2017.

White says there’s still a housing shortage at the lower end of the price scale.

The number of homes priced under $200,000 declined by more than 28 percent on an annual basis. And the number of homes priced between $200,000 and $300,000 dropped 13 percent.

A full county-by-county list of median home prices and how much they’ve gone up or down can be found here.

This article was originally published by California Public Radio

California’s Water Storage Failure is Another Example of Dysfunctional Political Leadership

Lake Shasta Water ReservoirIn 2017, when cracks appeared in the Oroville Dam’s spillway, more than 180,000 Californians faced the prospect of floods. The emergency came a few years after Californians had overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, a ballot measure to spend $7.1 billion on water-storage projects. In the drought-stricken Golden State, where runoff from rain and snowmelt races uselessly into the Pacific Ocean, the proposition won wide support, with voters approving it, two-to-one. But four years after passage, the state water commission has yet to assign a dime of funding for storage.

California once performed miracles in building infrastructure to quench the thirst of its residents and agricultural producers. In the 1960s, Governor Pat Brown oversaw construction of the San Luis Reservoir, capacity 2 million acre-feet. Approved for construction in 1963, it was completed by 1968—five years from start to finish. Those days are long gone. Any surface-storage project now faces years of litigation from environmental groups such as the powerful Sierra Club. At every stage in the construction process, delays of months or years ensue to resolve well-funded lawsuits launched under every conceivable pretext, from habitat destruction to inundation of Native American artifacts.

Nevertheless, the California Water Commission has finally announced its plans to fund new projects with the money from Proposition 1. Many Californians were surprised to learn that the proposition’s fine print stipulated that only a third of the money was ever intended to fund water storage. The rest is earmarked for other projects, ranging from habitat restoration to levee upgrades. Neither the commission nor most of the applicant agencies offer clarity as to how much additional storage the projects will add to California’s normal water supplies in an average year.

Clearly, some of the projects will make a tremendous difference to California’s parched water economy. The proposed Sites Reservoir, to be built just west of the Sacramento River, promises a capacity of nearly 2 million acre-feet; it alone could contribute a half-million acre-feet or more to the state’s water supply even in drought years, and much more in years with normal rainfall. Similarly, the Temperance Flat Reservoir will expand an existing reservoir on the San Joaquin River. Propitiously located south of the delta, this 1.3 million acre-foot construction could contribute 250,000 acre-feet or more to California’s water supply, even in drought years.

To appreciate how much capacity these two projects would add, consider that California’s total residential water consumption — indoor and outdoor combined — is only 4 million acre-feet per year. None of the other proposed projects comes close to matching these two, but in any case, it will be years before this new infrastructure can capture one drop of rain or runoff. The Sites Reservoir application anticipates completion by 2029; the Temperance Flat Reservoir, by 2033. Constant litigation, combined with years of legislation empowering unions and state agency bureaucrats to slow construction, have quadrupled the time required to build — and sent costs soaring. In 2018 dollars, Pat Brown’s San Luis Reservoir cost $672 million; the Sites Reservoir is projected to cost $5.2 billion — seven times as much, for a nearly identical facility.

To eliminate politically contrived shortages, Californians should embrace an all-of-the-above strategy to increase water supplies. They should select projects that yield the best return on investment while they take a hard look at what’s driving construction costs out of sight. Proposition 1 was a mandate to solve a solvable problem — store runoff to eliminate water scarcity. But California legislators have dragged their feet on implementation, betraying their constituents and exemplifying the state’s dysfunctional political culture. When it comes to water issues in California, not just quality of life, but life itself, is at stake.

The 100 highest pensions in the CalPERS and CalSTRS systems

SACRAMENTO, CA - JULY 21: A sign stands in front of California Public Employees' Retirement System building July 21, 2009 in Sacramento, California. CalPERS, the state's public employees retirement fund, reported a loss of 23.4%, its largest annual loss. (Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

How much does it take to make it into the 100 top-earning CalPERS or CalSTRS retirees? A pension of more than $219,000.

CalPERS is the retirement system for most state employees. CalSTRS is the retirement system for most certificated school district employees.

Both systems have faced scrutiny for years due to large unfunded liabilities — they don’t have enough money at the moment to pay all the benefits they have promised. In response, both systems have increased the required contributions for local governments that are part of the system.

Most CalPERS and CalSTRS retirees will never make anywhere near the pensions earned by the top-earning 100 retirees. The 100 top-earning CalPERS employees, for instance, make up about one-hundreth of 1 percent of CalPERS beneficiaries. The pensions paid to them in 2016 were equivalent to about one-tenth of 1 percent of all benefits paid to CalPERS beneficiaries. …

Click here to see the 100 highest pensions in the CalPERS and CalSTRS systems as reported by the Sacramento Bee

L.A. Sheriff’s Department Seizes Over 520 Guns from Felon’s Home

Gun seizureThe Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department seized over 520 guns from the home of 60-year-old Manuel Fernandez last week.

Fernandez is a felon who got the attention of the sheriff’s department after a neighbor tipped them off to a large number of guns in his possession.

ABC News reports that deputies found 432 guns at Fernandez’s home the first day they searched. Upon returning a second day they discovered 91 additional firearms and another 30 “at the home of a woman connected to Fernandez.”

The sheriff’s department apprehended Fernandez and released a statement saying he was “arrested for being a felon in possession of firearms and a felon in possession of ammunition.”

They made clear that the size of the cache of firearms necessitated involvement of other law enforcement agencies as well: “Due to the large number of firearms recovered, detectives enlisted the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) for tracing the purchase origination of the weapons. Agents from both the California Department of Justice and ATF will be providing resources as the case continues through the court process.”

Fernandez was “booked at Palmdale Sheriff’s Station on charges of Felon in Possession of Firearms, Possession of an Assault Rifle, Felon in Possession of Ammunition, and Possession of Large Capacity Magazines.” He is out on bond and scheduled for a July 9 court appearance.

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News, the host of the Breitbart podcast Bullets with AWR Hawkins, and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at awrhawkins@breitbart.com. Sign up to get Down Range at breitbart.com/downrange.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California