Can California’s Legislative Supermajority Act Responsibly?

After a thunderstorm of post-election recounts across the Golden State, it appears that Democrats have reclaimed a supermajority in the California Legislature.

Whatever one’s political sway – and this applies to national election results, as well – it’s important for all voters to respect that “the people have spoken,” turn the page and hope for the best.

Having said that, as a proud entrepreneur, supporter of my community, rancher and surfer, I love the great state of California and want nothing more than to see our economy and future thrive for generations to come. To that end, I thought it might be timely to offer our new crop of Democrats in the State Capitol a few words of instructive advice before they settle in all too soon. 

First and foremost, think carefully about the consequences of your agenda. There are more than a few rumblings about the new Legislature and governor poised to tackle many big issues in the new year – issues for which the two-thirds vote, in my opinion, play a critically important role in assuring a level of caution and restraint. Transportation and infrastructure reform, climate change, affordable housing are some of the hot-button items that appear looming on the legislative horizon. To many, these may seem noble and venerable priorities and opportunities for an improved quality of life. But at what cost – literally? Will these trailblazing new policies be funded on the backs of small business owners, working families and future generations through taxes, fees, levies, assessments and other costs? Californians already pay the highest income tax, statewide sales tax, gas taxes, minimum wage and myriad fees to comply with onerous regulations. A bold agenda is one thing, but crippling our small employers and communities with hordes of new, unanticipated costs is another – and one that will further prolong our state’s economic and jobs recovery. Think before you act.

Second, don’t forsake your Republican colleagues in the Legislature – they represent voters, too. It may be easy for some to render the GOP irrelevant – but they’re not. And neither are the many, many voters in their districts who are looking to them for hope, help and a future bursting with promise. The Moderate Democrats are and will continue to be a vital bloc, focused on advancing a pro-business agenda within their party. I am hopeful that they will remain true to their words on the campaign trail and match their actions with their slogans – and inspire others within the Democratic Party to follow their direction. But no one should ever count the Republicans out in California – theirs is a party of ideas, individualism, and economic success. A one-party rule can have dire consequences if the majority fails to heed the thoughts, ideas and concerns of everyone in the electorate. Work across the aisle every day, respect the GOP, and it will result in better policy for everyone in the long haul.

Finally, it’s time to focus on making California government work more efficiently for the people. It’s time to clean up the still-obscene piles of waste, paper, logjams and errors that are ultimately treating taxpayers like a non-stop ATM. I hope our leaders and others will join me in making this a primary focus and priority in 2017 and beyond. I’m committed to this cleanup because I’ve heard from one too many small business owners, seniors, veterans and community leaders that our politicians and bureaucrats are still spending hard-earned tax dollars like drunken sailors (apologies, drunken sailors). Our new supermajority should halt discussions about new spending and first look to eliminate much of the inefficiencies and frivolity that have grossly infected our mammoth government beast. Our leaders should continue a bipartisan crusade for historic pension, workers’ comp and unemployment insurance reform – all costs that threaten to leave our children’s children with irreparable debt. And the new legislature must continue to insist on opening the books of every department, agency and operation, demanding answers to where our money is being spent, and seeking alternatives or reductions that will improve efficiency and keep more resources in the pockets of families, consumers and “mom and pops”?  We should all urge our legislators to push for increased transparency and accountability with every single program and activity so that Golden State government works for us, not for itself. We need to regularly audit our expenses. It’s something every job creator must do each day if they want to keep their doors open; why shouldn’t the “body politic” which we’re all funding be held to that same standard?

November 8th is finally behind us. The ads have stopped running, the polls have closed, and the people have, indeed, spoken. Now is not the time for protests, sour grapes, crossed arms or furrowed brows. Now is the time for our newly-electeds to take a breath, take their oath of office, and take their job seriously. I’m hopeful that the new supermajority will remember to think about the impact of their agenda, work with Republicans who still represent and serve many voters out there, and fight vigorously to make our government more efficient – and affordable – for all of us. That’s the California wave all of us will be proud to ride for many years to come.

Wayne Hughes, Jr. is a California businessman, philanthropist and founder of SkyRose Ranch and Serving California in Central California which treats veterans with PTSD and other disorders. Find out more atwww.bwaynehughesjr.com @BWayneHughesJr

California Democrats capture legislative supermajorities

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News:

SACRAMENTO — Democrats will have a two-thirds supermajority in both chambers of the California Legislature next year after Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang lost her bid to advance to the state Senate.

Election results released Monday showed Democrat Josh Newman narrowly defeated Chang for a Senate seat concentrated in northeastern Orange County.

Newman’s victory gives Democrats control of two-thirds of the 40 seats in the Senate — enough for them to approve tax increases, suspend legislative rules, pass emergency legislation or overturn the governor’s vetoes without any support from Republicans.

Newman is a U.S. Army veteran from Fullerton who founded a nonprofit to help veterans pursue civilian jobs following work in the entertainment and technology industries. He will replace Sen. Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, who was barred by term limits from seeking another term. …

Click here to read the full article

How Does Policy Analysis Work in the California Legislature?

 

CA-legislatureHave you ever wondered how the California Legislature goes about analyzing the thousands of proposals that are introduced as bills? And, how does the Legislature’s process for bill analysis differ from policy analysis methodologies used almost everywhere else, including academia and the private sector? The answers to these questions provide some interesting insights into the strengths and weaknesses of California’s legislative process.

For anyone who has seen a bill from the California Legislature in print, one of the first items addressed is a section entitled, “Legislative Counsel’s Digest.” Is this an analysis of the bill? Not really. Instead, the purpose of the Legislative Counsel’s Digest is to succinctly describe current law and then summarize the changes that are proposed in the legislation.  The Digest thus describes how the bill proposes to change existing law. Otherwise, the Digest is strictly neutral; it neither evaluates the pros and cons of the proposal nor makes any recommendations.

So, who does the analysis of bills and where do you go to find them? Quite simply, legislative proposals in California are analyzed by the staff of the committees to which they are referred and by the staff of the respective houses prior to a proposal coming up for a floor vote. Thus, a typical bill that makes it into law is analyzed six times: by a policy committee and a fiscal committee in each house and a floor analysis in each house. These analyses are accessible via the California Legislative Information website maintained by the Legislative Counsel.

If you pulled up bill analyses from several different committees, you would notice there is no set process or methodology being applied. Instead, you would note that there seems to be some common elements addressed in most of the analyses, but that each committee and each floor applies their own methodologies. Some policy committees in the Assembly and Senate have well deserved reputations for extensive analyses that include in-depth discussion of existing law and the proposed changes contained in the bill.

And they reflect the intent of the author and explain in detail the arguments for and against the proposed law changes. There are other committees whose analyses are often limited, merely reciting some of the language in the proposed legislation without much discussion that would provide valuable insights for those trying to understand or learn the intent behind changes in the law.

So, there is no fixed policy analysis methodology in the Legislature and the quality of analysis can vary from committee to committee, floor to floor, or even bill to bill. Nonetheless, what are the common elements that are covered in most legislative bill analyses and how do these analyses differ from policy analysis methodologies taught in academia and used almost everywhere else?

When we examine the bill analysis methodologies used in the California Legislature (and most other legislative bodies), we find the policy analysis is focused on the evaluation of a specific proposal. In other words, rather than beginning the analysis with a definition of the problem, the analysis emanates from a proposed solution (i.e., a bill).  This approach is understandable given that most legislative processes begin with the introduction of a bill that contains the text of a specific solution to try and address a public policy problem.

Typical elements addressed in a bill analysis thus include:

  • a summary of current law and a description of how the proposal would change existing law
  • a summary of the purpose of the bill
  • arguments in opposition and support
  • current or prior California legislative proposals on the same subject and the disposition of those proposals
  • what other states have done
  • results of research studies
  • fiscal effects
  • a listing of parties or organizations that have registered official support or opposition

While legislative bill analysis methodologies typically focus on the evaluation of a specific proposal, policy analysis methodologies taught in academia and used almost everywhere else tend to start from a definition of the problem.  Once the problem is defined, the analysis turns to identifying and evaluating the various alternatives for addressing the problem. The policy analysis is a rigorous, multi-step process that involves a thorough analysis of the various alternative means of addressing the problem.

While a legislative bill analysis of a specific solution can involve extensive research and considerable evaluation, there are pitfalls to this approach. Given the nature of the legislative process, the tendency is to become preoccupied with the solution and pay less attention to identifying and analyzing the various solutions to an underlying problem.  Authors of legislation are understandably inclined to focus on building the case for the particular solution for which they are advocating. All too often they tend to overlook the underlying steps of defining the problem, identifying alternatives, selecting criteria, and projecting outcomes.

And, all too often, the staff who analyze legislative measures also overlook these underlying steps. As a consequence, legislatures often get stuck in a contest of wills over specific solutions instead of first attempting to define and agree upon the underlying problem. Without a clear understanding and agreement on the problem they are attempting to address, legislators deprive themselves of a key element in reaching consensus.

There are some practical realities that make if difficult for legislative bodies to apply traditional policy analysis methodologies. With nearly 2,500 bills introduced each year in California (and upwards of 8,000 amendments made to these bills) it is an unrealistic expectation that legislative staff would have the time to engage in such thorough analyses on every bill and every amendment. On the other hand, while a thorough analysis of each bill and each amendment might be impossible, this does not mean that traditional policy analysis cannot be infused into at least a portion of the legislative process.

Decisions about how and when to infuse traditional policy analysis methodology into the legislative process are appropriately made by the leadership of the respective houses. One possibility would be to hold authors of legislation accountable to conduct and produce a formal policy analysis on each piece of legislation and major amendment being proposed. These formal analyses would accompany the proposal, thereby providing committee and floor staff something to review and critique. Another possibility would be for committee chairs and floor leaders to have discretion as to the measures needing a full scale policy analysis prior to a vote.

Regardless of the method chosen, we believe that additional time and effort needs to be spent on analyzing both the problems and the possible solutions before legislation is considered, let alone adopted. In the rush “to do something,” the Legislature often needs to return to the policy issue because the prior legislation did not accomplish what it had intended. It was either inadequate to effectively solve the problem being addressed or it was poorly crafted and needs to be revisited. In either instance, the policy analysis was probably limited and perhaps a more comprehensive analysis would have resulted in a better policy solution.

In summary, while most legislative bodies use policy analysis methodologies that focus on evaluating specific solutions, it is imperative that the underlying policy analysis steps not be overlooked. Even though legislative bodies may be concentrating on the evaluation of specific solutions, they cannot properly do so unless they have the discipline to define the problem, identify and evaluate the various alternatives, and formulate the best solution. The legislative process would be better served in the long-term by providing greater policy analysis of both the problems and the solutions being debated.

Thomas Nussbaum is the former Chancellor of the California Community Colleges.  Chris Micheli is a lobbyist with Aprea & Micheli, Inc. Both are Adjunct Professors of Law at McGeorge School of Law.

California Continues Its March to the Left

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris urges funds for tracking prescription drugsOn Tuesday, California voters lurched even further to the political Left, bringing the state even more out of step with the rest of the country. In a battle of two Democrats for a U.S. Senate seat, Bay Area leftist Attorney General Kamala Harris trounced Orange County moderate Rep. Loretta Sanchez, two to one – a greater margin than the victory in the state of Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

The Senate election again showed the bankruptcy of the “Top Two” primary reform of 2010, Proposition 14, which was supposed to produce moderate victors. As in many other local races, this race mainly prevented voters from having alternatives on the ballot from the Republican Party and third parties.

On the 17 state initiatives, giddy voters overall imposed massively higher taxes, spending and regulations. Combined with the $15 per hour minimum wage passed earlier this year by the Legislature, California in the future is going to be a much more expensive and less pleasant place to live. The next recession, which could hit next year, again will zoom unemployment above the 10 percent level and rapidly empty the state treasury, despite – or, rather, because of – the tax increases.

The Proposition 55 tax “extension,” really a $7 billion tax increase, belies the promise in 2012 that Proposition 30’s tax increase was “temporary.” The real problem here is that Prop. 30 was supposed to cover state deficits during the economic recovery from the Great Recession. But there’s no recession in 2016 and no deficits. So taxes should have been allowed to subside to the previous level. What will be done in the next recession? Another $7 billion tax increase – “temporary,” of course? Then another? And another?

Indeed, Prop. 55 passed with more than 60 percent of the vote, which for state teachers’ unions and other tax obsessives is like putting catnip in front of a mountain lion.

The Proposition 56 tax increase of $2 a pack of cigarettes, as I warned in a previous article on this site, will gouge poor people almost exclusively. How many non-poor people do you know that smoke a pack a day? And it will ignite a massively bigger black market in smokes. All to fund special interests favored by hedge fund billionaire and perpetual Silicon Valley busybody Tom Steyer.

Proposition 58 also passed, bringing back the retched, illiterate-producing Bilingual Education. As I wrote here, it’s one of the biggest education scams ever. Asian parents make sure their kids don’t get near this educational malpractice. But Hispanic kids won’t learn English or Spanish well, keeping them behind other kids.

As to regulations, Proposition 63’s absurd new gun-control measures passed, bringing certain lawsuits by gun groups for violations of the Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms.” Given that President Trump will be appointing pro-Second Amendment justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, the odds are that 63, and equally absurd gun controls passed by the Legislature earlier this year, will be overturned.

Like state officials in general, voters haven’t heard the proof that gun control only works on honest citizens; that criminals easily can get guns and ammo. Conversely, when honest citizens are armed, crime drops because criminals fear being shot by potential victims.

On the positive side, the drug companies successfully spent heavily to defeat Proposition 61’s price controls on prescription drugs. Even Bernie Sanders ads didn’t help any more than did his national backing of Hillary.

Although the death penalty again was upheld with the defeat of Proposition 62, as I pointed out here, no future governor will allow an execution, so the matter is mute – except to get cooperation from criminals too dumb to know they can’t be executed.

Proposition 57, criminal sentence reduction, passed with nearly two-thirds of the vote. That seems reasonable, but if crime keeps increasing, you can bet a tightening measure will be on the 2018 ballot. These things go in cycles. The 1990s saw Three Strikes imposed with Proposition 184 in 1994, which was too strict. Like the 1960s, now is a time of laxity. The pendulum probably will swing back the other way eventually.

Overall, the election will drive tens of thousands of productive people and thousands of businesses from the state to seek a better life in other states, or even countries, despite almost guaranteed worse weather.

Those who stay can light up with the passage of Proposition 64, legalizing recreational use of marijuana, evaporating their troubles in a purple haze of hallucinogenic bliss.

John Seiler is a longtime California columnist. His email: writejohnseiler@gmail.com

A Unique Role for the Legislature in the Rulemaking Process

CA-legislatureThe state of California has over 200 agencies, departments, boards and commissions that can make public policy via their authority to adopt regulations, often referred to as their rule-making authority. There is a lengthy list of state agencies that have adopted regulations which can be found on the website of California’s Office of Administrative Law. OAL’s website also provides direct access to the California Code of Regulations, which is organized under 28 subject matter titles.

There are several ways in which the Legislature can influence the rule-making activities of state executive branch agencies, primarily through the lawmaking and budgetary processes. For example, the Legislature can adopt statutory changes to expand or limit a specific state agency’s authority to adopt regulations, or the Legislature can utilize the “power of the purse strings” through the budget process to persuade a state agency’s rule-making actions. California law also provides a unique role for the Legislature to influence the quasi-legislative efforts of the executive branch. This brief article looks at that unique role.

The APA

The Administrative Procedures Act requires procedures for rule-making and administrative hearings by these numerous state agencies and departments. The APA is found at Chapters 3.5, 4 and 5 [commencing with Section 11340] of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the California Government Code. California’s APA is based largely on the federal APA.

Generally speaking, the authority of state agencies and departments to adopt policy (through rule-making) is defined and restricted by statute. It is an established principle of administrative law that an agency cannot exceed its legally-prescribed authority to regulate. On the other hand, some statutes confer broad powers to selective state agencies regarding matters that directly affect the public generally (e.g., Department of Motor Vehicles, Air Resources Board, and Department of Fair Employment and Housing).

Legislative Review of Regulations

Under the Joint Rules of the California Legislature, the Joint Rules Committee, as well as the respective Rules Committees of both the Assembly and Senate, may approve any request for a priority review of a regulation pursuant to Section 11349.7 of the Government Code. If such a request is approved, the Joint Rules Committee must submit any approved requests to the Office of Administrative Law.

In addition, under the Joint Rules, any member of the Senate may request the Senate Committee on Rules, and any member of the Assembly may request the Speaker of the Assembly to direct a standing policy committee of their respective houses or the Office of Research of his or her respective house to study any proposed or existing regulation or group of related regulations.

Upon receipt of such a study request, the Senate Committee on Rules or the Speaker of the Assembly determines whether a study will be made of the regulation(s). In reviewing the request, the Senate Committee on Rules or the Speaker of the Assembly must determine (1) the cost of making the study; (2) the potential public benefit to be derived from the study; and, (3) the scope of the study.

Under the Joint Rules, the study may consider, among other relevant issues, whether the proposed or existing regulation:

(1) Exceeds the agency’s statutory authority.

(2) Fails to conform to the legislative intent of the enabling statute.

(3) Contradicts or duplicates other regulations adopted by federal, state or local agencies.

(4) Involves an excessive delegation of regulatory authority to a particular state agency.

(5) Unfairly burdens particular elements of the public.

(6) Imposes social or economic costs that outweigh its intended benefits to the public.

(7) Imposes unreasonable penalties for violation.

The review must be done in a timely manner and any concerns must be transmitted to the Senate Committee on Rules or the Speaker of the Assembly, as well as the relevant state agency that is promulgating the regulation. In the event that a state agency takes a regulatory action that the reviewing entity finds to be unacceptable, the entity must file a report for publication in the Daily Journal of its respective house indicating the specific reasons why the regulatory action should not have been taken. The report may include a recommendation that the Legislature adopt a concurrent resolution requesting the state agency to reconsider its action or that the Legislature enact a statute to restrict the regulatory powers of the state agency taking the action.

Chris Micheli is an attorney and legislative advocate at the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc. He can be contacted at 916-448-3075 or cmicheli@apreamicheli.com. He serves as an Adjunct Professor at McGeorge School of Law.

Proposition 13 Is Safe — For Another Few Weeks

prop 13The Legislature is in adjournment, and with lawmakers at home campaigning for re-election, they are unable to engage in their favorite pastime of undermining Proposition 13 and its protections for California taxpayers.

However, this time out is only a brief respite from the Sacramento politicians’ inexorable pursuit of taxpayers’ wallets, the ferocity of which matches the dedication and intensity of a bear going after honey.

This December, after the election, lawmakers will reconvene to kick off the next two-year legislative session. During the just completed session, with great effort, taxpayer advocates were able to blunt a number of major efforts to modify or undermine Proposition 13, and, as surely as Angelina and Brad will be appearing on the covers of the supermarket tabloids, these attacks on taxpayers will begin anew when the Legislature is back in session.

Bills will be introduced to make it easier to raise taxes on property owners as well as to cut the Proposition 13 protections for commercial property, including small businesses. There may even be an effort to place a surcharge on all categories of property, an idea that was put forward by authors of an initiative that nearly collected enough signatures for placement on this year’s November ballot.

Accompanying the legislative fusillade will come the usual arguments that local government, or schools, or infrastructure, or the homeless, or the elderly, or (fill in the blank with the program or cause of your choice), or all of the preceding, need more money.

Government at all levels has become a militant special interest and its Prime Directive is to increase revenue – to take in more taxpayer dollars that is – and more is never enough.

The dirty little secret behind why government has changed from a service entity, dedicated to meeting the needs of its constituents, to a rapacious overlord, is that since being granted virtually unfettered collective bargaining rights in 1977, California’s state and local government workers have become the highest compensated public employees in all 50 states. With the high pay comes high union dues, collected by the employing entity and turned over to the government employee union leadership. These millions of dollars can then be used as a massive war chest to elect a pro-union majority in the Legislature and on the governing bodies of most local governments. And since these elected officials’ political futures are dependent on the goodwill of their union sponsors, there are almost no limits on what they will be willing to do to extract more money from taxpayers to be shoveled into ever increasing pay, benefits and pensions for government workers. (Government employee pension debt is several hundred billion dollars).

Literally, the only protections that average folks have from a total mugging by state and local governments are Proposition 13 and Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act. These popular propositions put limits on how much can be extracted from taxpayers by capping annual increases in property taxes, requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise state taxes and guaranteeing the right of voters to have the final say on local tax increases.

It is easy to see why these taxpayer protections are despised by the grasping political class and their government employee union allies. This is also why taxpayers will have to work hard to preserve them.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This piece was originally published by HJTA.org

The Lie Behind Public Financing of Political Campaigns

campaign-financeDemocrats in the California Legislature have presented Gov. Jerry Brown with a bill that would legalize public financing of political campaigns, similar to initiatives that have taken root in several cities and states across the country. This is not only a bad idea that will in fact result in more special interest involvement in elections, it also is an end-around by the Legislature to impose its will against that of the citizens they represent. The California Political Reform Act states that no taxpayer money may be spent by the government on political campaigns. This political spending provision was passed by voter referendum in 1988.

The California Constitution requires that any measure passed by the voters can be undone only by a second ballot measure, unless provided for otherwise in the act. When this ban on taxpayer funding of political campaigns was passed, it specified that no changes could be made unless it was by passage of a subsequent ballot measure, or by a two-thirds majority of the Legislature; and only changes that “would further the purposes” of the act would be allowed via legislation. Unsurprisingly, Democratic lawmakers have adapted the Orwellian premise that furthering the purpose of a voter-backed ban on taxpayer financing of political campaigns means undoing the law without assent from the voters.

The disregard that lawmakers in California have for their constituents is clear, and it should be clearer still to all Californians what this type of legislation will do to the political process. Far from ridding politics of special interest influence, forcing taxpayers to fund political candidacies that they oppose will increase the power and leverage that certain special interests wield in the state capitol.

To become eligible for taxpayer campaign funds, a candidate must first accumulate a certain number of small, private donations. Knowing this, special interest organizations can simply direct members and supporters to contribute enough small-dollar donations to meet the public financing threshold. In this way, a special interest group can turn a number of small donations into massive taxpayer funds directed to their preferred candidate, while the special interest group can still buoy their candidate with independent expenditures. The result is that the hand-picked candidate has the benefit of special interest support and the tax dollars of hundreds of thousands of voters, many of whom may not even support the candidate.

Supporters of taxpayer-funded political campaigns like to think that they are eliminating a great evil from politics. But a publicly funded candidate is under the same influence of special interests as a privately funded candidate, the only difference being that the candidate accepting taxpayer dollars can exude some moral superiority while still under the thumb of their special interest benefactors.

The truth is that money is a great barrier to entry in politics, and incumbents already in office know that. To effectively communicate a message to voters does, in fact, require money. The candidates best-armed to communicate a message to voters are incumbents, as they have already proven their worth to one special interest group or another, and have been rewarded with campaign funding. A lesser-known challenger does not have the same ability to reach out to a special interest group that can bundle enough small donations to reach the threshold for public funding of a campaign.

Democrats in Sacramento, as eager as ever to retain and expand power, have now conceived of a plan to limit political competition by making it more difficult for candidates to compete against incumbents that are backed by powerful unions, trial lawyers and other progressive interest groups. Rather than give greater voice to candidates that are supported by voters and not special interests, this misleading legislative proposal ensures that taxpayers will be forced to fund candidates who articulate views and opinions they may vehemently oppose. Better yet, their proposal to have your tax dollars subsidize their political campaigns, regardless if you might disagree with their ideas, is in direct defiance of the will of the voters and of California law.

Special interest groups are very powerful in California because our state government is very powerful. Government overreach pervades every facet of our day-to-day life in California, and special interests will continue to lobby lawmakers to gain preferential treatment from the Leviathan. If lawmakers were truly interested in reducing the influence of special interest money in politics, they would not force taxpayers to fund their campaigns, but rather advocate for legislation that reduces the power and influence the government has over the people. But how likely is that?

Alexander Tomescu is an associate attorney at Wewer & Lacy, LLP, focusing in the practice of election and campaign law.

Proposition 54 and the “We Can Do Whatever We Want Act”

TransparencyAmid the ballot initiatives gifting Californians with a 200-plus page voter guide is at least one sensible idea. Proposition 54 targets “gut and amend” (Ganda) bills, which are diametrically opposed to responsible legislative deliberation.

Ganda legislation takes “how a bill becomes law” civics book descriptions, then adds “not” at the beginning. In the race to beat the legislative end-of-session deadline, power brokers take bills that have cleared most legislative hurdles and replace them with completely different bills. Then they rush them through the minimal scrutiny of the last-minute frenzy (e.g., with multiple committee hearings in a single room in an hour).

This year’s appropriation of nearly $1 billion in pollution fee money is one example. Earlier illustrations include transforming a Silverlake Reservoir bill into requiring that gun buyback programs test weapons for criminal involvement (2014), California Environmental Quality Act exemptions for housing projects into increased alternative vehicle technology funding (2013), and pension reform into a fire prevention fee repeal (2012). The last three weeks of 2011’s session included 48 Ganda bills (my favorite: morphing a measure allowing tuberculosis information disclosure into one preventing local government bans of project labor agreements).

Unfortunately, bills sensible enough to command sufficient consensus can pass in daylight. Only legislation failing that test requires Ganda evasions.

That is what Proposition 54 addresses. It would require any bill to be both in print and available on the internet 72 hours before it could be enacted (with a ‘public emergency” escape clause). It would also intensify the sunlight on the sausage-making by mandatory videotaping of all public meetings, to be posted online within 24 hours, and by allowing any citizen to record any public meeting and use it without restriction.

Despite Proposition 54’s potential to protect Californians from legislative back-room bullying, it has opponents, particularly among power brokers. One rebuttal is, in essence, that despite missing deadlines or failing to get approval, sometimes legislatures “just need to act.” But that is not a reason; it simply assumes its conclusion — the powerful must be allowed to circumvent the rules whenever they decide it is necessary. That is why the Democratic Party opposes Proposition 54 with a preposterous rhetorical Ganda, twisting its protections against unwarranted legislative abuses into a claim that it would better allow “special interests” (i.e., those targeted for harm to fund legislative presents for others) to “block timely legislative action.”

The core problem is that for Ganda bills to benefit Californians requires several false things to be true.

The bill would have to be the Legislature’s business. Unfortunately, despite injecting itself everywhere, very little legislation can actually advance our general welfare. Benefiting some at others’ expense is another matter, but such bills deserve destruction, not greasing through.

Only the Legislature must be competent to deal with the issue. Where people can work things out for themselves, no legislation is needed, except repeal of what prevents voluntary private solutions. Those lauded by politicians for their wisdom during campaigns deserve the power to use it in their own affairs.

The problem must be too urgent to wait for ensuing terms. The sponsor must know how to implement an efficient and equitable solution. It must also come as a sudden surprise. But it is laughable to think of our legislators quickly developing real solutions to serious problems unrecognized just weeks before, and still needing to sneak them through.

Gut and amend survives only because it lets urgency insulate legislators from accountability. Capitol power brokers may “need” it for their purposes, but it harms citizens. That is why eliminating Ganda is important and also why all such legislative attempts have been killed. Proposition 54, which the legislature would morph into the “We Can Do Whatever We Want Act” at the last minute, given the chance, deserves support, in order to take such chances away.

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University, a research fellow at the Independent Institute, adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and member of the FEE faculty network. His most recent books are Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014) and Lines of Liberty (2016) 

California lawmakers collect thousands on top of salary while absent

Originally published by the San Jose Mercury News:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In addition to their six-figure salaries and benefits, California’s 120 lawmakers are compensated for their cost of living and meals when they leave home and travel to Sacramento to write and pass bills.

Unlike in many other states, however, California lawmakers have over time crafted loosely worded rules for themselves that allow them to collect those payments regardless of whether they even show up to work.

It’s a perk unlike anything typically available to workers in the private sector, allowing lawmakers such as Assemblyman Roger Hernandez to take unlimited time off and continue collecting a tax-free, daily allowance of $176.

The West Covina Democrat said his 24 sick days this session were due to high blood pressure, a condition he disclosed to reporters after his wife accused him of physical abuse and obtained a restraining order against him during divorce proceedings. …

Click here to read the full story

Reinstating Program for Low-Income Seniors – What Took So Long?

Property tax assistance for low-income seniors, the blind and the disabled is available again. In 2009, the Legislature ended the Property Tax Postponement (PTP) program that for 40 years had allowed low-income seniors, the blind and the disabled to defer payment of their property taxes.

That the PTP program is back is good news, but the question beproperty taxgs to be asked, why was a program that for vulnerable homeowners could mean the difference between remaining in the homes where they had resided for decades or being forced out into the street, canceled in the first place?

The answer is a sad commentary on how Sacramento works when political insiders think no one is looking.

First, it is important to recognize the unofficial motto of the state Legislature, which is, “When you’ve got it you spend it.” This is what then Senate leader David Roberti said in response to Gov. George Deukmejian’s effort to return excess tax revenue to taxpayers in 1987. Unsaid, of course, is that lawmakers are equally willing to spend even when they don’t “got it.” This helps explain why, even before the economic meltdown in 2008, the state budget was running a deficit of billions of dollars.

When the recession came, and state revenues declined, the Legislature’s response was to raise taxes on Californians whose economic fortunes had also plummeted. Lawmakers raised sales taxes and income taxes. They even went after parents by cutting the tax deduction for dependent children in half.

While taxpayers got a haircut, the highest paid state workers in the nation were fully protected. Bureaucrats who had been given furlough days to cut costs, were fully reimbursed for lost pay.

The Sacramento politicians made a few cuts to limit the increase in state spending, but spending, nevertheless, continued to expand. The motivation for cutting at least one program, was clearly mean spirited.  To save a few million dollars in the current budget, legislators eliminated the Property Tax Postponement program.  However, this program, so important to low income seniors, was never a handout or an entitlement. The state recovered all costs, plus interest, when the home was sold or the owner passed away.

Taxpayer advocates immediately set about lobbying for the return of the PTP program, a program that pays for itself. Finally, even thick skinned lawmakers were embarrassed and approved reinstatement of the PTP in 2014.  However, claiming that time was needed to train staff and prepare paperwork, the benefit was not to be available for another two years.

Time is up and the Office of the Controller will begin taking applications in October. To be eligible for property tax postponement, a homeowner must be 62, or blind, or have a disability. The homeowner must also have a household income of $35,500 or less, have at least 40 percent equity in the property, and occupy the home as the primary residence, among other requirements.

The interest rate for taxes postponed under PTP is seven percent per year. Postponed taxes and interest become due and payable under PTP when the homeowner moves or sells the property, transfers title, defaults on a senior lien, refinances, obtains a reverse mortgage, or passes away.

Funding for the program is limited and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The program application and details are on Controller Yee’s website or by phone at (800) 952-5661.

However, taxpayers who need this assistance must remain vigilant. If lawmakers think no one will notice, they may throw the PTP overboard again, as they did in 2009.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This piece was originally published by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association