Obama Amnesty Plan Adds 100,000 Foreigners to Compete Against Americans for Jobs Via H-1B Visa Spouses

When someone from India receives an H-1B visa, so they can undercut wages for Americans, they are allowed to bring their spouse to this nation. But, the spouse is not allowed to work here. Under the Obama “amnesty” he would allow these folks to also legally work in the United States. So, his amnesty is fully about cutting American jobs and wages, using our tax dollars to make the American middle class poorer.

“That was almost six years ago, when she first arrived in the U.S. with her husband, Vishal, on his work visa. But their lives have changed, and she’s eager to get back to the workplace.

In the coming year, she might: Sharma is one of an estimated 100,000 spouses of high-skilled work visa holders who could soon be allowed to work as part of President Obama’s new immigration plan.

Those who will qualify are H-4 holders whose spouses have applied for permanent resident status, or for a work visa extension.”
All of this would be done without the approval of Congress—Barack the First does not need a stinkin Congress or Constitution to rule.

Obama the listener

Spouses of high-skilled visa holders look forward to getting their own jobs

Leslie Berestein Rojas, KPCC, 1/8/15

Shalini Sharma loves spending time at home with her two young sons, make no mistake. She loves being able to cheer on her youngest as he learns to ride a scooter, and helping her eldest with his homework.

But she really misses her work.

“I am an architect,” said Sharma, who arrived in the U.S. almost six years ago. “I was a professional architect in India, and I was an interior designer. I had my own practice.”

Sharma isn’t your typical stay-at-home mom who traded career for kids. She’s in the United States on what’s called an H-4 visa, a visa granted to dependents of H-1B high-skilled work visa holders, more than two-thirds of whom are men.

These dependent spouses, many of them from South Asia, aren’t authorized to work in the U.S. But in many cases, they are as well-educated and skilled as their partners.

At first, Sharma stayed home by choice.

“I was all fine with not working, because I wanted to give some time to my kids and stay with them and just be with my family, the four of us together,” she said.

That was almost six years ago, when she first arrived in the U.S. with her husband, Vishal, on his work visa. But their lives have changed, and she’s eager to get back to the workplace.

In the coming year, she might: Sharma is one of an estimated 100,000 spouses of high-skilled work visa holders who could soon be allowed to work as part of President Obama’s new immigration plan.

Those who will qualify are H-4 holders whose spouses have applied for permanent resident status, or for a work visa extension.

Economics are a factor for some who are eager to put their skills to use – but so are emotional reasons.

Because of her status, Sharma can’t do so much as order cable service without her husband’s involvement. She can’t have a credit card – she can only use his. She finds the entire thing humiliating.

“It really hurts when you were an independent woman, and you choose to stay home for your family,” she said, “but then…you need authorization from your husband because you don’t have a Social Security number.”

Manju Kulkarni, director of the South Asian Network in Artesia, says the change has been a long time coming.

“We really saw the problem with H-4 visa holders exacerbate in the last 10 years because more and more spouses were coming to the United States and unable to work, and unable to use their expertise and their skills,” Kulkarni said. “And so a numer of advocates raised this with the administration, and with folks in Congress during the discussions around immigration reform.”

Proposed federal regulations to ease the work ban for H-4 visa holders were introduced last year, and eventually folded into executive action.

Not working wasn’t a big deal for Sharma at first. She and her husband thought they might stay short term. But, as it does, life happened: The toddler they brought with them started school – he’s 10 now. A second son was born – he starts kindergarten in the fall.

“They started liking it here,” Sharma said. “The school is good, the surroundings are good, and we all were happy here. But then now, I want to work. I can work, because my kids are old enough.”

A couple of years ago, they bought a house – all on her husband’s income. Vishal Sharma has a good tech industry job as a chip designer, but he also wishes his wife could work.

“Everything is dependent on one visa, which is dependent on one job,” he said. “So if that job is under question, then all of our existence here is under question.”

There’s another economic down side to these dependent spouses being unable to work, immigrant advocates say: For those in abusive marriages, it’s difficult to escape without a means of self-support.

“They feel that both because of their immigrant status and their inability to work, that they are trapped in relationships with their batterers,” said Kulkarni, whose group has assisted several women in this situation.

Kulkarni said that as the White House immigration plan rolls out, H-4 visa holders who qualify could get permission to work in the next several months.

Some dependent spouses have gone out of their way to seek other kinds of visas in order to feel productive.

Vandana Suresh had just earned a master’s degree in physics when she arrived with her husband from India in 2005, as a dependent on his student visa. He eventually got a work visa and a job – but she couldn’t get one.

After some time feeling like a frustrated housewife, Suresh started applying to Ph.D. programs. She finally landed a neuroscience spot at USC in 2009 – and a student visa that lets her work in a lab on campus. While she earns only a modest stipend, for her, it’s a big deal.

“It gives me a sense of identity and accomplishment,” said Suresh, who takes the train to campus from South Pasadena. “It’s something that is my own, my own achievement. I feel much more empowered, confident, and a better mother and better wife.”

Shalini Sharma has found her own ways to channel her creativity: She designs and makes jewelry, and her paintings hang on the walls. Never much of a cook in the past, she’s taken classes and enjoys cooking meals from scratch for her family.

But she wants her professional identity back. She’s quite sure she’ll be among those who qualify to work: Her husband is seeking a green card, so they can raise their family here.

With the kids in mind, she’d like a more flexible schedule than she’d have working as an architect, so she’s exploring other options.

“So I’ve thought that I’ll be a real estate agent,” she said. “Maybe I’ll flip properties and

Will the Court Give Abood the Boot? The U.S. Supreme Court is one decision away from curtailing union power in California.

Will the teacher’s use of extorted dues for political purposes finally be the downfall of the unions in government education? In Wisconsin ending the union monopoly caused one teachers union to close down and the other to lose a massive number of members. When given a choice, teachers choice freedom, not unions.

In California more than 90% of charter school teachers vote No on unions. One of the reason charter schools do so well, because unions do not run them.

“He noted that Abood (which holds that the state may force public-sector workers to pay union dues while carving out an exception for the funds that unions spend on political activity) is questionable on several grounds, and went so far as to suggest that collective bargaining issues are inherently political in the public sector. Alito explained, “In the private sector, the line is easier to see. Collective bargaining concerns the union’s dealings with the employer; political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government. But in the public sector, both collective bargaining and political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government.”

It may be possible to save California schools if the Supreme Court saves the failed government schools in Detroit—pray for Detroit and the students.

Ashs-teacher-and-students

Will the Court Give Abood the Boot?

The U.S. Supreme Court is one decision away from curtailing union power in California.

 

Larry Sand, City Journal, 1/8/15

Last year marked a legal turning point for California’s teachers’ unions and public employee unions across the nation. First, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled in June that some of the teachers’ work rules—including tenure, seniority, and dismissal laws—violated the state and federal constitutions. That same month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Harris v. Quinn, holding that home healthcare workers could not be forced to pay agency shop fees to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Treu’s ruling in Vergara v. California inflicted a flesh wound on the teachers’ unions, but Harris sent them reeling. The only way that the Supreme Court’s five-to-four decision could have been worse for the unions is if the justices had decided to broaden it to cover all public employees, not just a subset of them. Instead, Justice Samuel Alito drew a distinction between the home workers and “full-fledged” public employees, who currently must pay dues as delineated in the court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision. Nevertheless, Alito’s opinion left the door open for a more expansive court ruling later. He noted that Abood (which holds that the state may force public-sector workers to pay union dues while carving out an exception for the funds that unions spend on political activity) is questionable on several grounds, and went so far as to suggest that collective bargaining issues are inherently political in the public sector. Alito explained, “In the private sector, the line is easier to see. Collective bargaining concerns the union’s dealings with the employer; political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government. But in the public sector, both collective bargaining and political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government.” Taking Alito’s reasoning to its logical next step, paying fees to a public-employee union would become voluntary in the 26 states, including California, where it’s now compulsory.

As it happens, a case working its way through the federal appeals process right now from California could be the catalyst for that decision. Friedrichs et al v. CTA pits ten teachers and a union alternative called the Christian Educators Association International against the powerful California Teachers Association. The lawsuit, filed in 2013 by attorneys working with the Center for Individual Rights, takes aim at California’s “agency shop” law, which forces teachers to pay dues for collective bargaining activities, though (per Abood) paying for the unions’ political agenda is not mandatory. The plaintiffs’ lawyers challenging the statute echo Alito’s point out that collective bargaining is inherently political, and therefore all union dues should be voluntary. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in November issued an order that clears the way for the plaintiffs to petition the Supreme Court. If the justices grant certiorari, a decision could come in 2016.

If the Supreme Court overturns Abood, it would change the political landscape drastically. When Wisconsin’s Act 10 made teacher union membership voluntary, the unions in that state lost about one-third of their membership and a substantial amount of clout. If the same percentage of teachers quit the California Teachers Association, the union would lose approximately $62 million a year in dues. Considering the teachers’ union spent more than $290 million on candidates, ballot measures, and lobbying between 2000 and 2013—by far the most of any political player in the Golden State—such a loss would be crushing. And it’s no secret that CTA spending moves almost exclusively in a leftward direction. Between 2003 and 2012, the union gave $15.7 million to Democratic candidates and just $92,700 to Republicans—a ratio of roughly 99 to one. CTA has also spent millions promoting controversial causes such as same-sex marriage and single-payer healthcare, while opposing voter ID laws and limitations of the government’s power of eminent domain.

And the “fourth co-equal branch of government” wouldn’t be the only teachers’ union to learn what it’s like to live on voluntary contributions. The National Education Association, which hauled in nearly $363 million in forced dues in 2013–2014 and spent about $132 million of it on issue advocacy, would have to curtail its political largess considerably. Like the CTA, the NEA spends almost exclusively on progressive groups and causes. Over the years, the union has lavished gifts on People for the American Way, Media Matters, ACORN, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH, and the Center for American Progress. Not surprisingly, the union’s political spending by party is lopsided, too. Between 1989 and 2014, the union directed just 4 percent of its campaign contributions to Republicans, usually backing the least conservative candidate in a primary election fight.

Like most union leaders, recently termed-out NEA president Dennis Van Roekel insists that all teachers should be required to pay the union. “Fair share simply makes sure that all educators share the cost of negotiations for benefits that all educators enjoy, regardless of whether they are association members,” he said in June. Sounds reasonable. But what Van Roekel doesn’t mention is that the unions demand exclusive bargaining rights for all teachers. Teachers in monopoly bargaining states have no choice but to toe the union line. There is nothing “fair” about forcing a worker to pay dues to a union they wouldn’t otherwise join. If Friedrichs is successful and Abood is overturned, it would be a great victory for true freedom of association.

Larry Sand, a retired teacher, is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network and a contributor to City Journal’s book, The Beholden State: California’s Lost Promise and How to Recapture It.

 

San Fran Nan: Pelosi Demands Higher Gas Taxes Because Gas Prices Down

Nancy Pelosi, like the Democrat she is, can always find an excuse to raise taxes. Now, with the price of gas going down, she wants it to go back up, using taxes as the means. In California about 76 cents of the cost of a gallon of gas is direct taxes—about 30% of a gallon of gas is taxes. San Fran Nan does not want her new tax to go down as the price of gas goes up. This is a sham—she just wants more money for government to spend.

Remember, every dollar of taxation is a dollar less of freedom—to Pelosi FREEDOM is a dirty, Extremist word. Note that when gas prices were high Pelosi did not suggest that taxes go down.

“”I can’t respond to their proposal because I don’t know what it is,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “But I do think that if there’s ever going to be an opportunity to raise the gas tax, the time when gas prices are so low — oil prices are so low — is the time to do it.”

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Pelosi: Time is now for gas-tax hike

By Mike Lillis, The Hill, 01/08/15

Falling oil prices give Congress a great opportunity to hike the gas tax, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday.

But the Democratic leader also cautioned that her party won’t trade the store in return for the gas-tax increase being floated by some Republicans.

“I can’t respond to their proposal because I don’t know what it is,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “But I do think that if there’s ever going to be an opportunity to raise the gas tax, the time when gas prices are so low — oil prices are so low — is the time to do it.”

At 18.4 cents per gallon, the current gas tax hasn’t changed since 1993, and many environmental and infrastructure advocates are urging an increase to help eliminate annual deficits plaguing the Highway Transportation Fund. That fund is filled primarily by the gas tax, but the combination of rising infrastructure costs and more fuel efficient vehicles has created a shortfall that reached $16 billion last year.

In the upper chamber, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) are pushing legislation to increase the levy by 12 cents over the next two years. And both Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and James Inhofe (R-Okla.), head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said they remain open to the idea.

“John Thune made the statement that ‘nothing is off the table,’ and I agree with his statement,” Inhofe told reporters Wednesday.

Pelosi all but dismissed the idea, floated by some Republicans, that a gas tax increase could be used to fund a cut in the income tax, arguing that any new revenues from the gas tax must go toward closing trust fund deficits.

“What I would be interested in seeing is something serious, not something show-biz, which would be how do you relate the gas tax to the Highway Trust Fund. That’s the relationship that is real,” Pelosi said. “If there is to be an increase in the gas tax, that’s where those resources should be used.”

Pelosi also acknowledged the difficulty in passing such a tax increase regardless of the price at the pump; the combination of industry lobbying and bipartisan pressure from oil-state lawmakers has sunk such efforts for more than two decades.

“Our friends from oil states would say when the price is low, ‘How could you do this to us now, the price of oil is so low?’ And when the price of oil is high, they’ll say, ‘How can you do this to us now, because the price of gas is so high?’ ” Pelosi said.

“But I’m glad to see that they might be willing [to do] one half of that equation.”

 

Police Unions Behaving Badly

I grew up politically in the 1960’s and 70’s. At that time it was the conservatives that supported the police and the liberals that claimed they were racist and vicious. The Left demanded and got “Civil Review Boards”—leftists looking over the shoulder of the cops. Then we had the unionization of police and they no longer work for the public, they work for the unions.

It is distressing to see that thanks to unions, the ACLU and the courts, our safety has been compromised. Look at New York, the police are on notice, arrest someone and you might be the one losing pensions and a future. Any wonder arrests are way down and tickets almost gone? It is not safe to be a cop—if the criminals don’t get you, Sharpton or Holder will.

Then you have the Costa Mesa union, ur, police. They are in court for trying to frame a city council member and smearing others. The police allow this by NOT firing the union goons they pay dues to.

“E-mail records unearthed in the civil and criminal investigations trace months of back-and-forth between union members on creative ways to solve their council problem, eventually leading to the decision to increase union dues in order to triple the retainer the union was paying Lackie for the aforementioned research.

In one particularly rich exchange, a union board member, a rank-and-file cop himself, wrote it was “time to expose [the] buffoonery and paranoia” of the then-mayor, who had remarked that he was receiving “stink eye” from officers while out on the campaign trail for another council member, the same candidate about whom the union’s private investigators later made a false DUI report. (Sounds as if the paranoia was justified.)”

Unions pension public sector

Police Unions Behaving Badly

ByLucy Morrow Caldwell, Union Watch, 1/8/15

Itching to get rid of your crummy boss? Consider employing a private eye to tail him, tag his car with a GPS tracking device, and then attempt to nail him for drunken driving. If the mood strikes you, follow him to Las Vegas, or sic a voluptuous woman on him in a bar and secretly tape it.

Too bare-knuckled for your taste?

It wasn’t for one police union in Costa Mesa, Calif., when a contingent of council members there pushed to reform the city’s pension system and outsource some city services to the private sector.

New documents released by county prosecutors reveal that in the lead-up to the city’s 2012 mayoral election, the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association pulled out all the stops, deploying investigators at the law firm Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir to conduct “candidate research” against their political foes.

Needless to say, candidate research appears to have more to do with guerilla tactics intended to eliminate a target than poring over microfiche. Two private investigators employed at the law firm were arrested and charged earlier this month for their role in the 2012 events. Costa Mesa’s mayor (a council member at the time), his wife, and a second council member have filed a civil suit.

The police union has fired the law firm and claims the union had no role in directing the misdoings, but according to an affidavit filed by the Orange County district attorney, the two investigators, former police officers themselves, were carrying out services for the union at the time the alleged crimes occurred.

E-mail records unearthed in the civil and criminal investigations trace months of back-and-forth between union members on creative ways to solve their council problem, eventually leading to the decision to increase union dues in order to triple the retainer the union was paying Lackie for the aforementioned research.

In one particularly rich exchange, a union board member, a rank-and-file cop himself, wrote it was “time to expose [the] buffoonery and paranoia” of the then-mayor, who had remarked that he was receiving “stink eye” from officers while out on the campaign trail for another council member, the same candidate about whom the union’s private investigators later made a false DUI report. (Sounds as if the paranoia was justified.)

This might be reminiscent of a Hollywood plotline, but there are signs it may also be business as usual for police unions throughout the country. That now-defunct law firm employed by the Costa Mesa union was hardly a rare rogue outfit; nor were the two investigators, now fighting multiple felony charges, employees who had gone off the reservation. In its prime, the firm represented more than 100 law-enforcement associations in California and made no effort to hide its rough-and-tumble approach.

As detailed in a handy “playbook” on the firm’s former website, policeattorney.com (the site is now “under construction”), in order to be effective, a police union “should be like a quiet giant in the position of ‘do as I ask and don’t piss me off.’” Elsewhere, the firm advised clients encountering political opposition from elected officials or high-level bureaucrats to “focus on an individual . . . and keep the pressure up until that person assures you his loyalty and then move on to the next victim.”

recently wrote about an episode in Phoenix, similarly uncovered during discovery in a civil lawsuit against the police union there. Dismayed by a new uniform policy implemented by the police chief, union officials likewise plotted over e-mail to hire a private investigator to trail the chief and “break it off in his a**” if he were found to be meeting with rival unions.

Incidentally, the Phoenix police chief was fired by the city manager last week after he broke his silence and held a press conference in which he blasted the police union for its negative influence on city politics.

In both Costa Mesa and Phoenix, details of these sordid activities of police unions have come to light only because of the subpoena power afforded to parties in civil and criminal proceedings. Outside these rare contexts, police unions are able to operate with absolutely no transparency because they are classified as private entities not subject to public-records laws.

This is troubling when we consider that police unions are associations made up entirely of public employees for the express purpose of advocating on various employment matters. They command an outsize influence in the area of policymaking, sometimes even securing contract provisions in which they have veto power over changes in department policy. They win contracts in which union operations — including lobbying, electioneering, or soliciting grievances against public employers — are almost wholly subsidized by taxpayers. And in states such as California, where right-to-work laws don’t exist, police unions have an assured stream of revenue for budget items like “candidate research” by virtue of all officers’ compelled dues from their paychecks.

Even though their might is made possible only by the abundance of taxpayer coffers, these groups are not subject to any transparency requirements whatsoever, which is how we arrive at episodes like that of Costa Mesa.

Without demands for increased scrutiny of police unions, whether by mandating transparency in negotiations, requiring police officers to account for their union activity while on the taxpayer dime, or other related reforms, the ability for these groups to engage in unsavory activity — and get away with it — will only grow.

When, unbeknownst to us, the very groups we’ve entrusted to protect us from law-breakers become the law-breakers themselves, we’re in serious trouble.

Lucy Morrow Caldwell is vice president of client relations for High Road Stories, a holistic marketing campaign firm focused on free-market causes. She was formerly senior political advisor to the Goldwater Institute. This article originally appeared in National Review Online and is republished here with permission.

 

AB 86: State to Investigate ALL Police Shootings—Can Obama be Far Behind?

If a police office is involved in a shooting, the local police department—or the County Sheriff—will investigate. Now the Democrats have decided to make every police shooting a statewide political action. Democrat Assemblyman Kevin McCarty introduced a bill to have the State Department of Justice investigate every shooting.

This is a great idea for the bigoted Attorney General Eric Holder—why not mandate, based on civil rights, the Feds investigate every shooting? This is a great idea to make sure the cop on the beat looks the other way when confronted with a criminal—which cop can afford the attorneys to beat back the Attorney General of the United States. By now, if Holder had this power, Darren Wilson the Ferguson cop would be in the jail, with a million dollar bond. Why do Democrats hate the public so much they want to make eunuchs of our cops?

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   An act relating to peace officers.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, 1/5/15

BILL NUMBER: AB 86        INTRODUCED               BILL TEXT  INTRODUCED BY   Assembly Member McCarty                        JANUARY 6, 2015    An act relating to peace officers.                 LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST     AB 86, as introduced, McCarty. Peace officers: independent reviewpanel.   Existing law requires each department or agency in this state thatemploys peace officers to establish a procedure to investigatecomplaints by members of the public against the personnel of thesedepartments or agencies, as specified.   This bill would declare the intent of the Legislature to enactlegislation that would establish, within the Department of Justice,an independent review panel to investigate and provide an independentreview of peace officer involved shootings and other uses of forceresulting in death.   Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no.State-mandated local program: no.  THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:  SECTION 1. It is the intent of the Legislature to enactlegislation to establish, within the Department of Justice, anindependent review panel to investigate and provide an independentreview of peace officer involved shootings and other uses of forceresulting in death.

 

Obama Administration: Car Driving is OVER

The Federal government has now declared the age of cars is over. That is the excuse they are going to use to stop the building and the repairs of highways and streets. This is the excuse used to take gas money from the roads and more for money losing trains, buses and subway systems. This is the excuse to be used to build bike lanes to take away lanes from cars. This is another Obama disaster in the making.

“After many years of aggressively and inaccurately claiming that Americans would likely begin a new era of increased driving, the agency’s latest forecast finally recognizes that the Driving Boom has given way to decades of far slower growth. The amount that the average American drove actually declined nearly 9 percent between 2004 and 2014, resulting in about a half trillion fewer total miles driven in 2014 than if driving had continued to increase at earlier rates.”

There was NO decrease in driving—the RATE of increase declined. The lie of the Left exposed again.

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Federal Highway Administration Quietly Acknowledges the Driving Boom is Over

Agency Slashes Forecasts of Future Driving Growth Between 24 and 44 Percent

by Phineas Baxandall , U.S. PIRG, Beyond Chron, 1/8/15

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has very quietly acknowledged that the Driving Boom is over, cutting its forecasted driving estimates by between 24 percent and 44 percent.

After many years of aggressively and inaccurately claiming that Americans would likely begin a new era of increased driving, the agency’s latest forecast finally recognizes that the Driving Boom has given way to decades of far slower growth. The amount that the average American drove actually declined nearly 9 percent between 2004 and 2014, resulting in about a half trillion fewer total miles driven in 2014 than if driving had continued to increase at earlier rates.

The new forecast is a major departure from the FHWA’s past record of chronically predicting aggressive and inaccurate increases in driving. An analysis of these projections showed that the Department of Transportation (USDOT) had issued 61 driving forecasts in a row that overshot their mark.

The FHWA’s new forecast suggests that driving per-person will essentially remain flat. The benchmark is important because excessively high estimates of future driving are used to justify wasteful spending on new and wider highways. Meanwhile, policymakers pay little attention to repairing existing roads, and don’t invest enough in other modes of travel.

“The agency plays the vital role of guiding decisions for future infrastructure investment,” said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Analyst at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). “By recognizing changing travel behavior and the preferences of a rising Millennial generation, America can avoid billions in unnecessary spending for additional highway capacity that shouldn’t be a priority.”

“The FHWA does planners and engineers a huge service by right-sizing traffic projections based on changes in how we get around,” said Deron Lovaas, Director of Federal Transportation Policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The baseline forecast of total driving miles shows an increase of only 0.75 percent annually during the period from 2012 to 2042, with population growth averaging 0.7 percent each year – thus leaving driving miles per-person essentially flat.

According to the FHWA report, “This represents a significant slowdown from the growth in total VMT experienced over the past 30 years, which averaged 2.08% annually.”

Gabe Klein, former Department of Transportation Director of both Chicago (CDOT) and Washington D.C. (DDOT), commented, “I know from experience these forecasts have great importance in shaping debates and policy on every level of transportation funding. USDOT is clearly stating that a broad-based policy of building more road capacity for cars is not fiscally responsible or what the public needs or wants.”

Until now, there had not been a major reconsideration of past methods, which have chiefly depended on aggregating forecasts issued by states that are seeking federal funding for highway expansion projects.

The significance of the new estimates is apparent by comparing them with the agency’s Conditions and Performance Report to Congress, which estimated that total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) will increase an average of between 1.36 percent to 1.85 percent each year through 2030. This raised some eyebrows, because total annual VMT hasn’t increased by even as much as 1 percent in any year since 2004.

Comparing the 20-year estimates of the Conditions and Performance Report with the new 20-year estimates shows the agency has cut its forecasted growth rate between 24 and 44 percent.

The new Federal Highway Administration forecast can be found on its website.

You can view a graphic showing how FHWA forecasts of future driving volume have changed over time and how have compared to actual driving here.

You can read a series of U.S. PIRG reports about the causes and consequences of changing driving behavior and the importance of official travel forecasts for policy choices here.

 

Bizarre Northern California Laws You Never Knew Existed

Government truly believes it can regulate anything and everything—every human action is up for control by government. In San Fran you are not allowed to have a friend store lamps or other items in your storage unit—a $500 fine. In one city it is illegal to use old underwear to wash your car windows! Seriously, who is enforcing these laws? Any wonder few trust or respect government?

Pacific Grove: Of course, the unusual regulations in Monterey County extend beyond Carmel. Known as “Butterfly Town U.S.A.,” this city protects their beautiful namesake in many ways. One example? You can be fined up to $1,000 for what is deemed “molestation of butterflies.” Frankly, I’m not sure I’d like to know what “molestation” means here.” It takes a very creative, but sick person to molest a butterfly.

When government creates these laws or keeps them on the books, it tells society that government is about control, not about protection. Every law noted needs to be repealed as quickly as possible.

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Bizarre Northern California Laws You Never Knew Existed

By Maria Judnick, KQED, 1/8/15

Every January, a plethora of new ordinances go into effect. This year, the Golden State added new data privacy protections, cap-and-trade environmental policies, mandatory paid sick leave, and a variety of other rules that join some wacky laws that were slipped in over time but never taken off the books. In a state where “sunshine is guaranteed to the masses” and licking toads was once illegal, it’s no surprise that many Northern California city laws are bizarre. Here are a few that will make you scratch your head wondering what inspired the need for these regulations in the first place:

San Francisco:

While it’s becoming more well-known that Chapter 6 of the city’s housing code doesn’t allow you to store your own stuff (besides an automobile) in your “public and private storage garages” unless you pay a fine of up to $500, there are plenty of other interesting policies. Some of my favorites include: a law prohibiting used underwear to be employed in wiping off cars in a car wash, the regulation requiring elephants walking down Market Street to be wearing leashes, and the rules against piling horse manure higher than 6 feet on any street corner. Of course, being a media savvy metropolis, San Francisco also holds a copyright on the city’s name!

San Jose:

The heart of Silicon Valley was once known by another name—“The Valley of Heart’s Delight”—thanks to the abundant local agriculture. So, in a way, it makes sense that this city pays close attention to all residents, including animals. While a previous regulation prohibited more than two dogs or cats per owner, the current laws are still targeted against cat ladies: “It is unlawful for any person to maintain, at any dwelling unit, more than any of the following combination of cats and dogs: a) Zero (0) adult dogs and five (5) adult cats; or b) One (1) adult dog and four (4) adult cats; or c) Two (2) adult dogs and three (3) adult cats; or d) Three (3) adult dogs and two (2) adult cats.” But can you have more than four adult dogs and one adult cat? The law is unclear to this layperson. Sources were also unable to verify the old law that you may not sleep in your neighbor’s outhouse without permission, but I’d like to believe it existed.

Carmel:

Clint Eastwood helped the city of Carmel in Monterey County “feel lucky” in 1986 when he became mayor. Why? He helped overturn one of the more infamous city ordinances that prohibited the selling and eating of ice cream on public streets in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Unfortunately for the beautiful tourist town, the 1920s municipal code banning women wearing shoes having heels more than 2 inches in height or with a base of less than one square inch unless the wearer has obtained a permit for them still stands. Clint Eastwood also continued the policy of allowing no chain restaurants in the city limits. There are also no listed addresses, parking meters, street lights, or sidewalks outside of Carmel’s downtown commercial areas.

Pacific Grove:

Of course, the unusual regulations in Monterey County extend beyond Carmel. Known as “Butterfly Town U.S.A.,” this city protects their beautiful namesake in many ways. One example? You can be fined up to $1,000 for what is deemed “molestation of butterflies.” Frankly, I’m not sure I’d like to know what “molestation” means here.

Chico:

The most populous city in Butte County, California is probably best known for two things: Chico State and being the home of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. But they also have some intriguing laws: “No person shall produce, test, maintain, or store within the city a nuclear weapon, component of a nuclear weapon, nuclear weapon delivery system, or component of a nuclear weapon delivery system under penalty of Chapter 9.60.030 of the Chico Municipal Code.” You are also prohibited from owning a smelly animal hide or bowling on the sidewalk. Naturally, citizens also need to apply for a permit from the city to throw hay into any local cesspools.

Eureka:

Humboldt County’s principal city is also not immune to some bizarre laws. Visitors are warned that one may not sleep on the road. But, most importantly, the city isn’t friendly to America’s pastime: “It shall be unlawful to throw or hit or knock any baseball with a ball bat or any other instrument or engage in or play the game of baseball in any other manner on any city park or playground without first obtaining written permission to do so from the Director of Public Works.” Luckily, it is the other Eureka in Nevada that apparently prohibits men who wear mustaches from kissing women.

And, if you think these regulations are bizarre, NorCal residents can still feel superior to our SoCal brethren who have far stricter prohibitions. After all, in Los Angeles, it is not only illegal to cry on the witness stand, but, even more critically, you may not hunt moths under a street lamp.

 

California students invited to devise creative solutions to state water problem–important facts withheld from students

How to indoctrinate government school students? Create a competition for 4th and 5th graders, have them give ideas on the reduction of the use of water. But, do not tell them about the Delta smelt, the fairy shrimp, and the salmon. Nor do you tell them about the millions of acre feet of water flowing into the ocean instead of being captured and saved. Do not tell the kids that since the 1970’s term of Jerry Brown as Governor we do not build dams to save water when it does rain.

Instead tell them that not washing your car is patriotic—taking shorter baths and not flushing the toilet are good things. This is why government education is really public indoctrination—the facts are not given to the students, so they can make knowledgeable responses and suggestions.

“In a new contest announced Wednesday by the California Arts Council, students are invited to design a poster that showcases unique and creative ways to reduce water consumption. The winners’ artwork will be displayed in the State Capitol.

“The arts offer a unique way to illuminate reality,” said Craig Watson, director of the California Arts Council, in a statement. “We hope the Conservation Creativity Challenge contest will help students engage with these important conservation values in new and fun ways.”

shocked-kid-ap

California students invited to devise creative solutions to state water problem

Mary Plummer, KPCC, 1/7/15

California officials want to tap the inventive minds of 4th- and 5th-graders around the state to help address the region’s drought problem.

In a new contest announced Wednesday by the California Arts Council, students are invited to design a poster that showcases unique and creative ways to reduce water consumption. The winners’ artwork will be displayed in the State Capitol.

“The arts offer a unique way to illuminate reality,” said Craig Watson, director of the California Arts Council, in a statement. “We hope the Conservation Creativity Challenge contest will help students engage with these important conservation values in new and fun ways.”

California is in a state of extreme drought. The dry period started back in 2012. In 2013, just 7.93 inches fell across the state, according to the National Climatic Data Center. That’s more than 14 inches short of normal and the driest in about 120 years of recorded history.

The contest is a partnership between the state arts council and the California Department of Water Resources. The contest is in keeping with the state school curriculum on environmental issues.

A first, second and third place winner will be selected from each grade level. According to the state website, entries can be made from a range of materials:

Students may use construction paper, plain bond paper, drawing paper or art board. Crayons, felt pens, colored chalks, paints, water colors and grease pencils may be used. Artwork is not limited to these materials—student creativity is encouraged! Posters must be two-dimensional in order to qualify.

Full rules and details are available online.  Entries must be postmarked by March 31.

 

Should “Good” Ideas Become Law? Congress and School Lunches (Light Bulbs and More)

As we go about our daily lives we see things that we know are good for us, like exercise. But do we want government to mandate exercise?   Seriously, a double cheeseburger is a bad idea—a single one will do—should government outlaw double cheeseburgers? At what point do we decide that a good idea must have the force of law behind it?

In 1948 Hubert Humphrey spoke to the Democrat National Convention. In his speech he said, “It takes a generation for a good idea to become a human right”. That seems to be the attitude of Michelle Obama and her jihad against food children eat. But she does not want to wait a generation, nor have Congress approve the idea. Unlike Marie Antoinette, she says “don’t let them eat cake.”

“If it has come to Congress deliberating over school lunches, think of all else that has now become a matter of law rather than individual choice—individual liberty. Pretty soon, Congress will be telling us what light bulbs we may use or how much water we use to flush the toilet. Oh, wait, that has already happened.

We have a huge problem when folks want to turn their opinions into laws and assume that those who oppose them are just not enlightened. They know better. Better let the smart people make the decisions.”

Freedom is NOT a four letter word—but in government it is.

Norman Rockwell Freedom of Speech

Congress and School Lunches

Future of Capitalism, 1/7/15

Bob McTeer has a perceptive, if pessimistic, post about the recent congressional debate over school lunches:

The outcome was billed as a defeat for the First Lady—who had vowed to fight to the bitter end—and her allies who supported whole and multi-grain bread for school lunches, especially in pasta and tortillas. There was also a side issue involving appropriate salt content and even provisions regarding green-house emissions from farm animals—from both ends, I believe.

I don’t doubt that whole grain bread is more nutritious than the white bread I grew up on. Less salt is probably better as well, although salt tastes awfully good. What gets me is the idea—common these days—that, if something is a good idea, it’s a good idea to pass it into law.

Wages should be higher; pass a law. Work weeks should be shorter, pass a law. A federal law at that. Regarding school lunches, what about parents getting together with the principal? Or, maybe even the local school board?

If it has come to Congress deliberating over school lunches, think of all else that has now become a matter of law rather than individual choice—individual liberty. Pretty soon, Congress will be telling us what light bulbs we may use or how much water we use to flush the toilet. Oh, wait, that has already happened.

We have a huge problem when folks want to turn their opinions into laws and assume that those who oppose them are just not enlightened. They know better. Better let the smart people make the decisions.

When I first heard of the great whole-grain debate, I assumed that the opposition was standing on principle. We don’t need a federal law on the content of school lunches. But, actually, it was a debate on detail. What year certain provisions would be phased in. That sort of thing.

I’m afraid that’s become a pattern as well. At first the fight is over principles, but once the centralizers win their point the opposition just drag their feet a bit on implementation. The forces of liberty are in retreat.

Will Confused Guv Brown propose paying judges pension debt?

Curious news. The Guv is thinking of fixing the judges pension system by paying off the unfunded liability of a little over $42 MILLION. At the same time, no one is trying to fix the CalSTRS and CalPRS problem, which in total is just under ONE TRILLION DOLLARS in unfunded liabilities. Guess $42 million for judges is OK, but fixing the pension crisis for teachers and workers is a little too hard.

Of course, when San Diego and San Jose voters tried to fix their pension problems, the unions went to court—won, and assured their extorted members will not get their complete retirement pay because their system is collapsing.

“But the governor said the judges plan is on his to-do list last year as he proposed a costly solution, later enacted, for another long-ignored retirement debt, the seriously underfunded California State Teachers Retirement System.

“Now this doesn’t handle it all,” Brown said last May as he proposed a revised state budget. “We still have retiree health. We still have the judge’s retirement system. We have got lots of other stuff here, and we will handle it.”

Talking about it and doing something are two different things—especially when you are as confused about facts as Guv Brown has shown to be.

JerryBrownSchw

Will Brown propose paying judges pension debt?

Ed Mendel, CalPensions, 1/5/15

In what has been a futile annual ritual, CalPERS President Rob Feckner sent the governor and Legislature a letter last March urging advance funding of a closed judges pension plan, a change estimated to save $753 million to $2.3 billion in the long run.

Reform legislation two decades ago put new judges in a conventional pension plan with an investment fund to help cover future costs. But judges hired before Nov. 9, 1994, were left in a pay-as-you-go plan closed to new members.

Now for the new plan the state this fiscal year is paying $63.2 million (24.6 percent of pay) for the pensions of 1,407 judges (1,352 active). Judges Retirement System II is 95 percent funded with a debt or “unfunded liability” of $41.2 million.

For the old pay-as-you go plan the state is paying more than three times as much, $217.5 million, for the pensions of 2,251 judges (328 active). And the original Judges Retirement System I is only 1.6 percent funded with a big unfunded liability: $3.4 billion.

Gov. Brown’s finance department was silent on the judges plan last month when announcing that the new state budget proposed this month (Jan. 9) will begin advance funding of another long-ignored debt, state worker retiree health care.

But the governor said the judges plan is on his to-do list last year as he proposed a costly solution, later enacted, for another long-ignored retirement debt, the seriously underfunded California State Teachers Retirement System.

“Now this doesn’t handle it all,” Brown said last May as he proposed a revised state budget. “We still have retiree health. We still have the judge’s retirement system. We have got lots of other stuff here, and we will handle it.”

The administrator of the two judges systems, the California Public Employees Retirement System, and the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office both urge advance funding of the pay-as-you-go judges plan.

Instead of just covering the cost of pension checks sent to retirees each year, additional money would be paid into an investment fund yielding a return. The “advance funding” or “pre-funding” helps pay for the pensions promised current workers in the future.

It’s cheaper in the long run, saving taxpayer money. CalPERS expects its investment fund, valued at $296 billion last week, to pay about two-thirds of total pension costs.

It cuts debt passed to future generations. Pensions are generally regarded as deferred wages that, from an accounting viewpoint, should be paid while the worker is still on the job.

And it gives pension system members added assurance of getting a pension check, if for some reason lawmakers balk at payments. Feckner said in a previous letter the pay-as-you-go money had run out before the end of the fiscal year, delaying pension checks.

If the state begins advance funding of the closed judges plan, a staff report to the CalPERS board last March showed possible savings of $753 million to $2.3 billion over the life of the plan, depending on how quickly pension debt is “amortized” or paid off.

“Normal cost” covers the pension earned by active workers during the fiscal year. UAL (unfunded accrued liability) is the debt owed for pension amounts earned in the past by members of the plan. EARSL (expected average remaining service life) is the years current judges are expected to remain on the job. “Payout” is the state cost for the pensions.

The biggest possible savings shown, $2.3 billion, would result from following the Governmental Accounting Standards Board rules, which base the annual payment to the pension fund on the average time active workers are expected to remain on the job.

The “estimated average remaining service life” of the 328 active judges in the closed plan last year (188 age 65 or over) is brief, 1.87 years. If the state followed the accounting rules, the payment this year would be not $217.5 million but $1.9 billion.

“Note that this last amount ($1.9 billion) is the Actuarially Required Contributions (ARC) under GASB Statement No. 27 and may be required to be disclosed in the State’s financial statements,” said the CalPERS staff report.

On the other hand, what happens if the state, again foregoing a chance to get long-term savings through advance funding, continues the current policy?

CalPERS expects the pay-as-you-go cost, $217.5 million this year, to continue growing for a few more years, peak at about $225 million in fiscal 2017-18 as more judges retire, and then slowly decline for about 60 years as age takes its toll.

Judges in the old and new systems had been contributing the same amount to their pensions, 8 percent of their pay. The old system can be more generous, mainly by allowing earlier retirement with the maximum benefit.

A pension reform pushed by Brown two years ago exempts judges, who tend to take office at a later age and also retire later, from most of the major provisions for new employees, such as lower pensions and a tighter cap on total pension amounts.

But judges hired after the Public Employees Pension Reform Act took effect on Jan. 1, 2013, are not exempt from a provision requiring a 50/50 split between employers and employees of the annual pension “normal cost,” which excludes debt from previous years.

Now these new judges are contributing 15.25 percent of pay for their pensions, nearly twice the 8 percent of pay contributed by other judges, who earn the same retirement benefits as the new judges.

Last month a half dozen judges elected by voters in 2012, but who did not take office until 2013, filed a lawsuit to avoid paying the higher contribution rate. Brown vetoed a bill last year, AB 837, that would have allowed the judges to pay the lower rate.

“This measure creates an exemption to the California Public Employees Pension Reform Act of 2013. I am unwilling to begin chipping away at these reforms,” the governor said in his veto message.

The reform bill that put new judges hired after Nov. 8, 1994, into an actuarially sound pension plan was recommended by a Select Committee on Judicial Retirement appointed by former Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas.

Former Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed a bill in 1992 that would have put judges into a less expensive pension plan. Judicial groups said the bill did not properly balance cost cutting with the need for a high-quality judiciary.

The select committee, appointed after the Wilson veto, found in a survey of 600 California attorneys that among 18 factors for becoming a judge pensions ranked third, after public service and intellectual stimulation.

“With all the pushes and pulls we faced — attracting experienced lawyers, saving the state money, keeping judges on the bench — we believe this plan is the best possible compromise,” the select committee chairman, former Legislative Analyst Alan Post, said in a news release in 1993.

The select committee recommended that the lawmakers adopt a “strategy for the liquidation of the unfunded liability” in the old judges plan. Reaching full funding by a deadline of 2002 was estimated to cost an additional $100 million a year.

But instead of paying down the debt in the old judges plan, the bill creating the new pension plan (SB 65 in 1993) repealed the 2002 deadline for reaching full funding in the old plan. Avoiding the short-term cost seems a likely reason for the repeal.

No explanation was given as an Assembly floor analysis listed among the bill provisions: “Repeal the statutory requirement that the actuarial unfunded liability of existing tier of benefits, known as the Judges Retirement System (JRS), be eliminated by the year 2002.”