Summer of discontent continues to rage for California progressives

In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, third from left, flanked by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, right, and other Democratic lawmakers, discusses a pair of proposed measures to protect immigrants, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. California is among the states that voted for Hillary Clinton and that could find themselves at odds with President-elect Donald Trump on such issues as immigration, health care and climate change. Rendon said the intent of the legislation is to put a "firewall" around Californians. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The California progressive movement’s summer of discontent continues, with anger still on display over the abrupt withdrawal of a single-payer health care bill and over the May election of a party insider as California Democratic chairman.

This week, the Associated Press reported that progressives remain interested in pursuing a recall campaign against Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, (pictured) for his decision to kill Senate Bill 562, the Healthy California Act. Los Angeles activist Steve Elzie is a lead organizer.

The California Nurses Association last month paid for two mailers to be sent to constituents in Rendon’s Los Angeles County district blasting him for “holding health care hostage” and “protecting politicians, not people’s health care.” The mailers urged constituents to complain to Rendon’s offices over the decision, but did not advocate a recall.

That decision may reflect that CNA President RoseAnn DeMoro – who initially led the criticism of Rendon – has realized how difficult it would be to ultimately remove him from office.

Obtaining the 20,000-plus signatures needed to trigger a recall election might not be much of a problem, given that single-payer champion Bernie Sanders got 44 percent and 48 percent of the vote in the June 2016 Democratic presidential primary in California’s 38th and 47th Congressional Districts, respectively. The districts cover much of Rendon’s 63rd Assembly District district which includes parts or all of Commerce, Bell, Lynwood, Paramount and Lakewood.

But Rendon has gotten at least 69 percent of the vote in his three Assembly bids. He also has more than $1.2 million in his campaign war chest and has the support of other influential unions, meaning ready access to more donations and help campaigning.

Rendon killed SB562 because he said it failed to adequately identify how it would pay its $400 billion in annual costs to provide health care to every Californian.

‘Berniecrat’ still won’t accept loss in party chair vote

The other flap pitting the party establishment against “Berniecrats” also flared this week when Bay Area political organizer Kimberly Ellis launched a new salvo over her narrow loss for state party chairman to Eric Bauman, a nurse who has long been a fixture in Los Angeles County Democratic politics and was deputy to the last state chair, former Congressman John Burton.

At May’s state Democratic convention in Sacramento, Bauman held off a late surge from the lesser-known Ellis to win 51 percent to 49 percent. Ellis immediately challenged what she said were election irregularities, leading to a July recount in which 47 of about 3,000 ballots were thrown out but Bauman’s margin of victory was unchanged.

Ellis and her fellow Sanders’ supporters, however, still don’t accept the results.

On Tuesday, she called on the California Democratic Party to accept binding arbitration to determine who really won the May election. She hinted it was the only way the party could head off a lawsuit that she suggested last month was forthcoming if she were unhappy with how party officials handled her appeal, which continues this month with a hearing of the Democratic Party credentialing committee.

California Democratic Party spokesman Mike Roth said the party would stick to its rules, which don’t provide for arbitration.

“Ms. Ellis is now deep in her own end zone and throwing a desperate Hail Mary pass in hopes of changing the outcome of an election that she lost fair and square,” Roth said.

But Ellis’ “Vote for Kimberly” website remains unchanged and continues to feature sharp – if indirect – criticisms of Bauman for allegedly close ties to corporate interests.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Jerry Brown, California Legislature, Reach Cap-and-Trade Extension Deal

carbon-tax-1California Governor Jerry Brown announced Tuesday evening that he had reached a deal with both chambers of the state legislature to extend the Golden State’s “cap-and-trade” program beyond its original expiration date in 2020.

Brown, Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) announced “a legislative package that will launch a landmark program to measure and combat air pollution at the neighborhood level – in communities most impacted – and extend and improve the state’s world-leading cap-and-trade program to ensure California continues to meet its ambitious climate change goals,” according to a statement released on the governor’s website.

The statement adds that the deal “includes AB 617 by Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and AB 398 by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and is the product of weeks of discussions between the administration and legislative leaders with Republican and Democratic legislators, environmental justice advocates, environmental groups, utilities, industry and labor representatives, economists, agricultural and business organizations, faith leaders and local government officials.”

The cap-and-trade system sets an upper limit for carbon dioxide emissions, and then issues emissions permits that can be bought and sold by producers. The system applies an effective tax on emissions (one that some businesses would prefer to leave the state to avoid). Companies that are more energy-efficient can sell their permits for profit — a model that Tesla, for example, has used to pad its bottom line.

The legislation will have to proceed in the absence of former Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who will be sworn into Congress on Tuesday — more than a month after winning a special election to replace Attorney General Xavier Becerra in the 34th congressional district. Gomez had delayed the ceremony partly to make his vote available for a cap-and-trade extension deal.

The deal, as noted by Bay Area public radio station KQED, will include provisions to allow local communities to monitor air quality and industrial air pollution, without allowing them to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Climate change activists often confuse the two phenomena, though one has little to do with the other: carbon dioxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is not harmful.

KQED adds that the deal also ends “a fire prevention fee largely paid by residents living in rural, Republican areas of the state.” That could indicate that Democrats struck an agreement with Republicans to vote for the bills.

Without Gomez, the Democrats will not have the two-thirds majority required to renew cap-and-trade without facing a state referendum. But with Republican votes, that obstacle will disappear.

Following last year’s passage of Proposition 54, which requires bills to be on public display for 72 hours before a vote, that could mean a vote on cap-and-trade could come as early as Thursday.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California 

California single-payer health bill shelved – for now

Pills health careSACRAMENTO – Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, an avowed supporter of single-payer health care, nevertheless announced last week that he was pulling the plug on a Senate-passed measure that would create such a system in California.

Rendon, who is holding the bill in committee, was only the proximate cause of AB562’s death. Its fate was sealed after a Senate floor analysis last month pinned its likely cost at $400 billion – more than three times the state’s entire general-fund budget.

“It didn’t make any sense,” Rendon recently told the Sacramento Bee. “It just didn’t seem like public policy as much as it seemed a statement of principles. I hope the Senate takes this chance to take the bill more seriously than they did before.”

According to its bill language, the Healthy California Act would “provide comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage and a health care cost control system for the benefit of all residents of the state.” The measure would have tossed out California’s myriad systems of private, insurance-backed and government-funded health care and replaced it with a single, government-managed system run by a newly created state agency.

Such a massive change would demand volumes of detailed legislative language, yet the bill itself was remarkably brief and lacking in specifics. It even failed to include any explanation for how it would receive the necessary waivers from the federal government.

The Appropriations Committee analysis concluded the bill would lead to “increased utilization of health care services,” given that all residents would be free to “see any willing provider, to receive any service deemed medically appropriate by a licensed provider, and the lack of cost sharing, in combination, would make it difficult for the program to make use of utilization management tools such as drug formularies, prior authorization requirements, or other utilization management tools.” So all financial bets were off, given an expected – and probably massive – hike in demand.

To fund the $400 billion program, the Appropriations Committee concluded the state would have to raise about $200 billion in new tax revenues. That would mean a new 15 percent payroll tax, with no cap on the wages subject to the tax. Shifting any of those costs from taxpayers to enrollees would be impossible under provisions that prohibit “members from Healthy California from being required to pay any premium” or “from being required to pay any co-payment, co-insurance, deductible and any other form of cost-sharing for all covered benefits.”

State officials often argue about programs that spend millions of dollars, but had a surprisingly short debate about one that would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. One reason that might be is that Gov. Jerry Brown already had expressed deep skepticism about the measure. “This is called ‘the unknown by means of the more unknown,’” he told reporters in March. It was unlikely he would have signed it, especially given his concern about creating new spending programs. Critics argue that the governor’s public views gave Democrats a free pass to vote for it and assuage their political base while knowing it was unlikely to become law. Rendon’s comments to the Bee certainly give ammunition to those who saw the bill as a half-baked “statement” bill.

Support and opposition fell along predictable and partisan lines. Liberal interest groups, unions and Democratic politicians typically supported the bill, while conservative groups, taxpayer organizations and Republicans opposed it. Some groups expressed views similar to Rendon’s – supporting the single-payer concept but expressing concern about specifics.

The latter, cautious point of view won the day. After all, the bill raised more questions than it answered. It’s unclear how the new system would work or how the new government agency would operate. There are questions about the effects a 15 percent payroll tax would on the economy and jobs creation and about the magnet effect if California created an unlimited, valuable new benefit available to anyone who simply lives in the state. There are questions about federal waivers and how the California system would intersect with federal programs. And that’s just for starters.

Instead of trying to answer those questions thoroughly, the bill’s backers did as Rendon suggested – introduced a measure that stated some principles and goals, but didn’t really explain how the state government might fund them. Given the debate the health care issue sparked at the latest state Democratic Party convention and on the floor of the Legislature, it’s clear that the single-payer issue will be around or a while, regardless of the fate of this particular bill.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

The relentless battle for legislative transparency

transparencyFor decades, it has been nearly impossible for ordinary citizens to pierce the veil of legislative secrecy in our state capital.

Of course, California is not unique — legislative bodies have sought to conceal their activity for millennia. This is inherent in the differences between rulers and subjects. But we all know too well that mischief feeds on secrecy. The Roman poet Virgil wrote more than 2,000 years ago, “Evil is nourished and grows by concealment.”

In California, the citizens have tried repeatedly to force legislative activity into the sunlight. So last year, to counter the common practice in the Legislature of introducing new bills and passing them within hours, often in the dead of night, voters approved Proposition 54. That important reform requires legislation be in print and available for public review for at least three days prior to final passage.

Passed as a constitutional amendment, Proposition 54 is not stated in discretionary language — its provisions are mandatory. And complying with its terms hardly places an onerous burden on lawmakers. Honestly crafted legislation should easily withstand a few days of public scrutiny.

The state Senate has complied with the will of the people, and even if some of the legislation this body has passed, like the gas tax increase, is repellent to many Californians, senators cannot be accused of keeping their lawmaking a secret.

The Assembly, on the other hand, has arrogantly continued business as usual by approving around 100 bills without the required time for members of the public to examine laws that they will be expected to obey. Assembly leaders say that the people cannot use the initiative process to mandate their conduct, making the lower house the poster child for the view that California government has become a militant special interest, more concerned with its own welfare and longevity, than that of the citizens it claims to serve.

In their pursuit of perks, pay and power, Assembly members are thumbing their collective noses at voters who, by approving Proposition 54, demanded greater transparency in the lawmaking process.

The initiative process in California dates back to 1911 and was a counter blow against the Legislature, most of whose members were beholden to the Southern Pacific Railroad. This form of direct democracy was intended to allow voters to become the lawmakers of last resort when their representatives proved to be indolent, incompetent or corrupt. The state’s most famous initiative, Proposition 13, came about when the Legislature proved to be both lazy and incapable of dealing with a property tax crisis that was forcing thousands of Californians from their homes.

Today, many state representatives are beholden to public employee unions and other special interests. Measures like Proposition 54 are valuable to prod lawmakers to behave in the best interests of all Californians, not just the Sacramento insiders.

If lawmakers continue to refuse to comply with Proposition 54’s reasonable, voter-approved mandate for transparency in their official conduct, there can be no doubt that resolution of this benchmark issue and the Assembly’s misconduct will end up before the courts.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. www.hjta.org

This piece was originally published by the Orange County Register.

State Assembly defies new transparency law

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

SACRAMENTO – California voters in November overwhelmingly passed Proposition 54, a constitutional amendment to promote transparency by requiring all bills in their “final form” to be published online for 72 hours before legislators vote on them. It’s designed to stop last-minute gut-and-amend bills where the leadership pushes through substantive measures that haven’t been vetted – or even read by most members who vote on them.

It’s no secret that many legislative leaders dislike the proposal. For years, reform-minded lawmakers have proposed similar measures – but they never made it before the voters. Opponents of the rule say they are all for transparency, but that requiring such a long period of time for the public and critics to review all bills makes it difficult to get complicated and important measures put together as the legislative deadline approaches.

One would think that Prop. 54’s passage would have settled the argument, but a fracas last week in the Assembly suggests that core debates over the measure are far from settled and might soon find themselves hammered out in court.

The Legislature adjourned Friday following the deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin. Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, assured that bills coming from the Senate waited 72 hours before a final vote. But Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, is accused by Proposition 54’s backers of allowing more than 90 bills to be voted on without having been published for a full 72 hours before the vote.

There’s a question over terminology in the proposition’s language: “No bill may be passed or ultimately become a statute unless the bill with any amendments has been printed, distributed to the members, and published on the internet, in its final form, for at least 72 hours before the vote, except that this notice period may be waived if the governor has submitted to the Legislature a written statement that dispensing with this notice period for that bill is necessary to address a state of emergency … .” The issue involves the term “final form.”

The initiative’s proponents say final form means the final form before a vote in each house of the Legislature. But the Assembly argues that final form “does not pertain to a vote to move a bill to the opposite house and instead applies to legislation presented on the floor of the second house,” according to a Sacramento Bee explanation.

The chief clerk of the Assembly issued a statement explaining that “Assembly bills will not be in final form until they are presented on the floor of the Senate.” Proponents of Prop. 54, including former state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, and moderate Republican financier Charles Munger Jr., strongly disagree with that interpretation and say they might go to court to defend what they say is the clear intent of the initiative.

One element of Prop. 54 that’s not in contention: The section finding that bills in violation of the 72-hour waiting period could be invalidated by the courts. That’s where the latest fracas resembles a game of chicken. De Leon clearly wasn’t taking any chances with his house’s interpretation of the proposition’s meaning. Rendon could have, say, passed a minor bill on a shorter notice as a test case to see how the courts would rule. Instead, if it’s true that he didn’t wait the full 72 hours for the votes, he may have put dozens of bills in jeopardy if the courts side with initiative drafters.

Supporters of the rule applying to both houses argue that it would be incomprehensible to give members of one legislative body (and their constituents) 72 hours to review a bill and deprive the same thing of members of the other legislative body.

Critics of the “both houses” interpretation suggest that Prop. 54’s drafters could simply have included the language “in each house” following the words “final form.” But the initiative’s drafters believe the plain reading of the initiative means that every bill must be in print 72 hours before each vote. Including the “in each house” language could have been interpreted to mean 72 hours in each house (for a possible total of six days), something proponents clearly didn’t intend.

It’s increasingly likely this dispute ends up at the state Supreme Court, with the stakes higher than ever. It will pit the intent of an initiative that passed by a nearly two-to-one margin and in all of California’s 58 counties against more than 90 recently passed bills, which could possibly be tossed aside even if the governor signs them.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Assembly Democrat stripped of committee chairmanship after voting against gas tax increase

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Nearly two weeks after breaking with fellow Democrats to vote against a bill raising California fuel taxes, Assemblyman Rudy Salas of Bakersfield has lost the chairmanship of a prime legislative committee.

On Monday, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced that he had removed Salas from his position heading the politically lucrative Assembly Business and Professions Committee, which handles consumer regulations, occupational licensing and product labeling bills.

Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, will take over as the committee chair, while Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, will get Salas’ vacancy. Salas was moved to the Assembly Rules Committee, which assigns bills to relevant policy committees and makes other decisions to administer the house. …

Don’t Rush Toward Gas and Transportation Taxes

LA-Freeway-Xchange-110-105The governor and legislative leaders came out from behind closed doors with a transportation tax and road fix plan and demand to pass the measure through the legislature in one week. Feels a lot like the federal experience with the health care reform bill. And, like that measure, despite one party controlling the executive and legislative branch, the bill might not find necessary support.

The campaign to pressure wavering legislators to get behind the bill kicked off yesterday in Concord with a lineup of Governor Jerry Brown, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President pro tem Kevin de León teaming up with union members to visit Senator Steve Glazer’s district and convince Brown’s one-time aide to publicly embrace the tax increase.

I seem to remember unions opposed Glazer when he first ran because of his stand against BART strikes. Different time and different unions, perhaps, but Glazer is still behind that issue. There are indications that Glazer is holding out for a no-strike provision in the transportation bill before he decides if he will support it.

While Brown, De León and Rendon will play old-fashioned political hard ball with legislative members in attempting to secure the needed two-thirds vote to pass the tax increases, ultimately individual legislators are going to have to be satisfied that their constituents will swallow the tax increase.

Voting patterns and attitudes have changed since Gov. Gray Davis was kicked out of office in great part because he increased the vehicle tax. While just about everybody believes road repair is necessary for improving the state’s economy and for the general public’s mental health while driving congested highways, yet, the double whammy of an increased vehicle registration fee and 43% gas tax increase will be a hard sell. Especially, to less well-off constituents those who have to drive a long way to get to work.

The transportation issue and health care issue are different in many ways, but the idea of rushing through a measure that will pile new burdens on the public has a familiar feel to what happened recently in Washington.

The strategy behind quickly passing the two quite different bills is similar: Pass a measure before it gets tangled up in amendments. A lot of amendments can and should be had.

At the Concord news event yesterday, Gov. Brown said, “There is nothing more fundamental in the business of government than making sure the roads and bridges don’t fall apart, and they are falling apart.”

But if roads and bridges are a fundamental responsibility for government, why wasn’t attention paid to them when the state budget grew dramatically since Brown returned to the governor’s office?

Brown says if we don’t address the problem now it will only get worse—and more expensive to fix. Right on both counts. However, using current transportation related dollars that find the way to non-transportation services or including proposals that will allow for more cost efficient repairs would go a long way to convince voters that government is trying to get the job done right and give good value for their tax dollars. It might even convince voters to chip in a little more to get the job done.

Legislators like Glazer are independent and not so easily coerced. Legislators should hear  from their constituents before voting on the bill. Rushing through the transportation bill without sensible changes could result in the same fate as the health care bill.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Democrats release plan to make California public college free

College debtCalifornia Democrats are making a push to offset the cost of higher education, releasing a sweeping plan to increase student aid that would be perhaps the most favorable in the nation for students – but one that may be unfavorable for the taxpayer.

“Lower-income students … are able to many times, through our great programs in California, get help to pay for tuition. But they’re still graduating with a tremendous amount of debt,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.

The plan, unveiled earlier this month, would cover not just tuition but living expenses as well, making it different from other similar proposals in states like New York.

“California is taking the boldest step in the nation for making college debt-free,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, said in a recent press conference.

The cost for the program would come at a price tag of $1.6 billion per year, phased in over five years, and would be paid for using money from the state’s General Fund, lawmakers say.

Proponents say existing tax revenues will cover the cost, but other projections to provide universal college came in at a much higher cost of $3.3 billion annually.

Some lawmakers are skeptical of the effectiveness of the plan, especially as California confronts a wide range of other issues like infrastructure and entitlement spending.

“I think it’s well intentioned,” Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez said of the plan. “But I don’t think it recognizes the economic reality or really addresses the challenges we have to address.”

Additionally, the plan comes at a time when the effectiveness of Cal State schools is being called into question due to poor graduation rates.

For example, under 20 percent of full-time CSU freshmen graduate in four years, much less than the 34 percent national average for public universities.

The “Degrees Not Debt” program would affect around 400,000 students at UC and Cal State institutions.

It’s just one of over a dozen student-aid related bills already proposed in Sacramento this year alone to offset the cost of college, as the average student loan debt per graduate in the Golden State is $22,191.

For example, Assembly Democrats last month pushed forward a plan that would grant in-state tuition for individuals in the state as refugees.

Currently, around 60 percent of Cal State students and about half of University of California and community college students already have their tuition fully covered by existing grants and aid programs.

Student aid and college reform has come into increasing focus, partly spurred by former Democratic Bernie Sanders’ push to make all at public universities tuition-free.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Democrats’ Sanctuary Includes Violent Criminals

People march through downtown Los Angeles supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants living in the United States Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006. The event, called "La Gran Marcha Laboral," was organized by the March 25 Coalition, which put on a massive protest in Los Angeles earlier this year. (AP Photo/Oscar Hidalgo)

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) have been clear that they oppose California allowing the state or its sanctuary cities from cooperating with immigration officials unless the individual committed a violent crime.

Under California law, throwing acid at someone or rape of an unconscious, intoxicated or mentally ill victim is not considered a violent crime. Neither is vehicular manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon, arson, solicitation of murder or exploding a destructive device or explosive with intent to injure. 

A recent article by Jazmine Ulloa, Los Angeles Times makes this clear distinction:

After being accused of rape, Andrew Luster jumped his $1-million bail and was later captured in Mexico by a bounty hunter on TV.

Ventura County prosecutors said he drugged three women and videotaped the assaults, and a jury convicted him of 86 counts of poisoning, sexual battery and rape of an unconscious or intoxicated person. But with none of his offenses listed among the 23 crimes that California considers “violent” felonies in its penal code….

In drawing the line at crime violence, why would Kevin de Leon and Anthony Rendon extend sanctuary and protection to predators like Andrew Luster?

While Eric Holder will be in Sacramento tomorrow, collecting his $25,000 a-month-taxpayer-funded-check from the state’s taxpayers via our Legislature, he needs to be the adult in the room and ask the Democratic leadership to remove their rose-colored glasses and realize that there are distinctions between “hardened criminals,” “undocumented immigrants,” and those who perpetrate the abbreviated state list of “violent crimes.”

Ending “sanctuary city” ordinances does not mean that law enforcement in those communities become “quasi immigration enforcement officers.” Rather, it reopens the door to the real need of providing continued cooperation between law enforcement and immigration officials and ensuring societally dangerous and violent criminals are identified, detained and deported. They should also include those convicted of gang activities, rape, arson or those who sexually assault the elderly or mentally ill victims.

The following crimes are not covered by the definition of violent crimes under recently passed Proposition 57:

  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Human trafficking involving a minor
  • Battery with personal infliction of serious bodily injury
  • Throwing acid or flammable substance
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer or firefighter
  • Discharging firearm at an occupied dwelling, building, vehicle or airport
  • Rape where victim legally capable of giving consent
  • Rape by intoxicating substance
  • Rape where victim unconscious of the act
  • Rape/sodomy/oral copulation of unconscious person or by use of date rape drugs
  • Rape by threat of public official
  • Inflicting corporal injury on a child
  • Domestic violence
  • Arson of a structure or forest land
  • Arson of property
  • Solicitation to commit murder
  • Grand theft firearm
  • Assault with a deadly weapon by state prison inmate
  • Any felony involving the personal use of a deadly weapon
  • Holding a hostage by state prison inmate
  • Exploding a destructive device or explosive with intent to injure

Hector Barajas is a partner at Merino, Barajas & Allen, a California strategic communications and public affairs firm. As a nationally recognized expert on Latino politics and public policy issues, he serves as an on-air political analyst for Univision and Telemundo.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Gov. Brown Strong on Rage, Light on Solutions to State’s Problems

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

What is the state of the state in California? Apparently it’s under siege. Gov. Jerry Brown’s annual address sounded more like a commander rallying his troops to resist an occupying force than an informative report from the state government’s chief executive.

“The recent election and inauguration of a new president have shown deep divisions across America,” said Brown. “While no one knows what the new leaders will actually do, there are signs that are disturbing. . . . Familiar signposts of our democracy – truth, civility, working together – have been obscured or swept aside.”

He returned to the theme moments later, saying that “while we now face different challenges, make no mistake: the future is uncertain and dangers abound. . . . this is a time which calls out for courage and for perseverance.” He promised that as leader of the resistance, he would provide both.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon set the tone before Brown spoke. He railed about “the threats from the new administration to our state’s values and its people,” then declared himself to be “glad to have Gov. Edmund G. Brown fighting with us and for all of us,” as if Brown were preparing to lead soldiers into battle.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León followed, declaring that the California proposition that “every person should enjoy the right to be exactly who they want to be and have an equal opportunity to succeed” is “now under threat.”

And rather than take a more judicious path, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom continued the theme.

“In the last few months,” he said, “we have announced repeatedly and emphatically that we are unafraid to fight.”

Is this the way that the political leaders of a dynamic and influential state should be conducting themselves? These are the people that Californians elected to run the government and make the laws. Is creating an illusion that the state has to defend itself from invaders the best they can do?

Brown called California the “great exception,” which is what it once was, attracting opportunity seekers and tireless workers from across the country and all over the world. But now it’s the “great exception” because even as the Blue State model has been rejected elsewhere, California won’t let go of the government architecture that has caused breakdowns in Connecticut, New Jersey and Vermont – formerly rich states that strangled themselves with layers of government – and in big cities all over the U.S. map.

Entrenched issues that truly plague Californians were not addressed by Brown. The state’s broken, unreliable, unfair and punitive income tax system wasn’t mentioned. Neither was the pension crisis that threatens the economy; the housing crunch which jeopardizes the future; the high cost of energy and the coming energy crisis; the state’s hostile business climate;; and Sacramento’s taste for free spending.

Neither did the Governor talk about poverty.  As Assemblyman Dante Acosta wrote, “he missed the opportunity to call out his own party which has overseen the state for decades with a policy agenda that preaches compassion, but routinely ignores the problems that truly drive poverty.”

The only bright spot of Brown’s entire speech was his stated commitment to infrastructure improvement. California’s roads are a wreck, among the worst in the United States, and need attention. If the governor believes infrastructure is a priority, then he needs to take on that job. And that doesn’t mean leaning on Washington for more funds. It means using those fuel tax dollars Californians already send to Sacramento that should be applied to transportation projects.

It’s much easier to feign conflict with a nonexistent enemy than it is to do the hard political work of getting California back on track. That would require some grit and an abandonment of the old ideas that have brought the state to this creaky point. It takes less effort to oratorically stir up the masses and peel their eyes off the real problems, and refocus them on imagined hobgoblins.

California’s future is truly at risk, but not because the presidential candidate most voters in the state supported wasn’t elected.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow at the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily