California: Time for a Major Change in Course

Governor Jerry Brown, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, legislative and other government officials are fixated on battling the new administration in Washington with almost total disregard for California’s major problems and unmet needs. Failure to address these pressing problems threatens the viability of a state whose status is rapidly being transformed from “golden” to “tarnished.”

To help the political class refocus on the important, here is a list of the most exigent problems accompanied by modest solutions, as compiled by a couple of veteran taxpayer advocates who speak with, and hear from, thousands of California taxpayers.

  • car highway roadRoads & Highways – Just about any road trip one drives on in California confirms that we have gone from a world leader in highway capacity and quality to barely a third world contender. Major changes are in order. Our gasoline tax must be dedicated to roads and highways alone, not to other general fund uses like paying off state general obligation bonds, as is now the practice. Also, Senator John Moorlach’s demands to reform Caltrans should be a top priority. California spends 4.7 times as much per mile of state highway than the national average, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and a 2014 government report concluded the transportation agency was over-staffed by 3,500 positions. Additionally, we should end the practice of requiring “prevailing wages” on public works projects, which are estimated to add up to 20 percent on every road and other public improvement.
  • Energy Costs – Gasoline formulation requirements, “cap and trade” and other responses to climate change must be revisited with demonstrable science and hard-headed realism to help low and middle income Californians who struggle with the costs of transportation and household energy. This is not climate change denial, but rather a recognition that it is patently unfair to burden the citizens of one state with the entirety of a global problem.
  • Business Regulations and Lawsuit Abuse – Manufacturing restrictions, wage and salary rules, workers’ compensation standards, frivolous lawsuits and “sue and settle” standards have driven the aerospace and most other manufacturing industries out of California. Time for tort and regulatory reform to establish a business-friendly climate that will encourage refugees to return and lure others to relocate here. Note: The Nestle Corporation has just announced it is moving its U.S. headquarters from Glendale to Rosslyn, Virginia taking hundreds of high paying jobs with them.
  • Land Development and Housing Costs – The mid ‘70s pioneering California Environmental Quality Act has created a nightmare for those seeking affordable, conveniently located housing, workplaces and shopping centers. It has been used as a weapon by environmentalists, competitors, “NIMBYs” and labor organizations to limit – and dramatically drive up the cost of homes, apartments and other needed facilities. Fortunately, despite the best efforts of some in Sacramento, Proposition 13 remains on the job protecting homeowners from runaway property taxes that could force them from their homes.
  • Public Transit – Gov. Brown’s “Bullet Train to Nowhere” is in a death spiral due to lack of public support, refusal of the federal government and the private sector to provide additional funds, and out of control costs due to mismanagement, malfeasance and insurmountable engineering hurdles. But fixed route/fixed rail transit remains part of the liberal social planners’ mantra. Other than in highly congested urban areas, public transit is unjustifiable in terms of both capital and operating costs. With the advent of Lyft, Uber, self-driving cars and even Elon Musk’s Hyperloop — that, within a few years, could move passengers at a faction of the cost of rail — private companies and entrepreneurs are offering answers to the mobility problem. This justifies placing renewed emphasis on fixing and expanding our highway system.
  • Education Improvements and Cost Control – “School choice” is the answer to improving K-12 student learning results. The political clout of the California Teachers Association and other teacher unions has blocked progress. Properly framed ballot initiatives may be the only realistic avenue to reform as we must stop the automatic and mindless Proposition 98 commitment of nearly half of general fund revenues – regardless of need – to K-12 and community colleges.
  • Public Employee Wages, Benefits and Pension Reforms – Public sector compensation costs for California, at both the state and local levels, are now clearly unsustainable. According to the Department of Labor, California state and local employees are the highest compensated in all 50 states. Pay, benefits and pensions of public employees have become disproportionate to their private sector counterparts who foot the bill. Adding to the approaching calamity is mismanagement – which has included criminal bribery – at CalPERS, the state’s largest public employee pension fund. Politically motivated investment strategies and fanciful predictions of return on those investments have left taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded liability for current and future retirees. Consideration must be given to shuttering CalPERS and fairly allocating to each current employee their share of the retirement funds, arranging for the public employer to make up the difference for what has been promised to date, and move from “defined benefit” to “defined contribution” plans for all existing and future employees. Otherwise, this pension burden has the potential to grow so large that California will not be able to fund the most basic services and as residents flee to other states, the last one out will be asked to turn out the lights.

We call on our representatives to stop pursuing discretionary causes and pet projects and come to grips with these real problems facing all Californians.

Lewis K. Uhler is Founder and Chairman of the National Tax Limitation Committee and National Tax Limitation Foundation. He was a contemporary and collaborator with both Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman in California and across the country.

Jon Coupal is the President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. He is a recognized expert in California fiscal affairs and has argued numerous tax cases before the courts. 

This piece was originally published by HJTA.org

California’s cap-and-trade faces tough questions

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

California’s marquee climate-change program faced tough scrutiny on Tuesday from a state appeals court judge who seemed skeptical that the $4.4 billion raised from the state’s cap-and-trade program complied with laws regulating taxes and fees.

“Where does this end?” Associate Justice Harry Hull asked state lawyers at a hearing in a long-running lawsuit that challenges the state’s ability to collect revenue from the cap-and-trade auctions it has sponsored since 2012.

Despite Hull’s questioning, two of three justices at the 3rd District Court of Appeal appeared to be leaning toward upholding the California Air Resources Board’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. It aims to gradually reduce greenhouse-gas emissions over time by compelling industries to change the way they do business under the authority of the landmark 2006 law, Assembly Bill 32.

A decision from the court is expected within 90 days, but the losing side likely will appeal the case to the state Supreme Court.

As U.S. Moves Right, Will California’s Outlier Status Accelerate Exodus?

californiaAfter recovering from the shock of the presidential race, California pundits began absorbing what all this actually means. There is broad agreement that the rightward movement by the rest of America has only increased the political divide between the nation as a whole and California.

This divide has widened so significantly that Governor Brown joked about building a wall around the state to protect it from nasty conservatives. And a handful of ultra-progressives, distressed at the thought of a Trump presidency, are planning an initiative they hope will lead to California seceding from the United States. (Newsflash for backers of this “Calexit” effort: That a state can’t secede from the Union was resolved in 1865 when General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox).

Putting the jokes and unrealistic fantasies aside, there are real world implications for the increasing chasm. First, if it were evident prior to the election that California has “go it alone” policies on climate change, it is even clearer now. Sure, Washington will continue to pay lip service to greenhouse gas reductions, but broad, draconian laws and regulations perceived to be damaging to the economy will be shelved.

Second, the High Speed Rail project might have just graduated from being a mere pipedream to a true fantasy. Already Congress had shut the spigot of federal money and the project has been on life support using cap and trade revenue which doesn’t generate a fraction of what it needs for the train to become viable.

Third, perhaps the biggest hit to California will come in the area of health care. While other states have resisted full implementation, California has been held up as Obamacare’s shining example of “success.” But a Republican Congress is likely to repeal major parts of the law, including the funding for Medicaid expansion and elimination of the federal tax credits that lower premiums for most California enrollees.

This enormous gap between right America and left California will result in the state no longer being able to rely on the federal government to finance its left-of-center policies. And that’s bad news for taxpayers.

Without federal support and California’s majority party wanting no slowdown in their agenda, the pressure to raise taxes will grow even stronger. So even though California will have the highest income tax rates in the nation until 2030 – thanks to Prop. 55 – and the highest state sales tax, expect the alligators of the left to be searching for their next meal. No doubt, they will put Prop. 13 on the menu.

The non-stop pursuit of an even higher tax burden has already resulted in millions leaving California. The growing fissure between the rest of nation and the state’s pursuit of destructive progressive policies is giving millions more Californians an excuse to bail out.

It’s not just the hard data from the IRS and the Census Bureau that confirms this. We all know people who have made the choice to escape California’s hostile tax and regulatory environment. A neighbor of mine just left to visit the multi-acre parcel he bought in Texas. When he retires in four years, he will build a home on the property. He is currently an attorney with the state.

A close family relative and her husband left the Bay Area for Oregon in large part for tax reasons. This is especially ironic given that they are both liberals who, as California residents, voted for every tax increase on the state and local ballot.

Another close relative who was visiting her mother on the Gulf Coast of Florida tells of miles and miles of white sand beaches with homes on the ocean that can be purchased for what a 1,200 square-foot condo would cost in San Francisco. Derided as the “Redneck Riviera,” the Gulf Coast is now a favorite of former Californians in large part because there is no income tax.

Can California change course? As long as those interests which rely on government largess own the Legislature, the prognosis is not good. With trillions in public debt of all kinds, an unresponsive and arrogant administrative state and high cost of living, California is bound to see the exodus that has already started to accelerate quickly.

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

California Should Reduce Legislature to Part-Time

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

When the Legislature finally adjourned at the end of August, it again screamed the need for a return to part-time operations. The “reform” of the late 1960s that imposed a full-time gathering of busybodies in the Capitol was one of the state’s biggest mistakes.

Misguided voters passed Proposition 1A in 1966, the same year they put Ronald Reagan in the governor’s chair. The first thing the new full-timers did was pass a massive tax increase. Reagan had campaigned against any tax increase. He broke that pledge and signed $1 billion in higher taxes, equivalent to something like $20 billion more today, the highest state tax increase in history.

Fast-forward to 2016 and the Legislature passed one absurd bill after another, many supposedly “helping” the poor, but actually hurting them. The farm worker overtime bill has been covered by my colleagues and I here at Fox and Hounds.

Another one was the cap-and-trade deal, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, which would “spend $900 million on programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions …. The money will go toward subsidies for electric cars, new park space and pedestrian-friendly affordable housing. California’s 4-year old cap-and-trade program raises money from businesses that purchase permits to pollute.”

Supposedly the “program” dedicates the money toward such allegedly pollution-reducing actions. But in government, all money is fungible. With legislative legerdemain, it would be possible to switch the $900 million to pay, for example, for some of the $250 billion in the state’s unfunded pension and medical care liabilities.

It also is absurd to think the state can reduce “greenhouse gas emissions” when, according to the Guardian, “1,500 new coal plants are in construction or planning stages around the world,” although only half might be built. “However, 84GW of plants (about 85 stations) were built in 2015 and new plants are being commissioned at five times the rate that old plants, such as those in the UK, are being retired.”

The electric car subsidies largely go to rich Tesla drivers, with the cost picked up by poor people forced to drive long distances in old cars because housing is cheaper away from the expensive, job-rich areas along the coast.

New parks might be nice, but why not let localities decide that? And how will the money be spent? Remember the parks scandal where the director, as AP reported, “sat on nearly $54 million in surplus money for years while parks were threatened with closure over budget cuts”?

But the most absurd part of the cap-and-trade flim-flam was “pedestrian-friendly affordable housing.” Where will poor people park their cars? Once again: Because coastal areas are prohibitively expensive, poor people either bunch up in homes, often illegally; live far from jobs and drive long distances; or sleep on park benches.

If the “pedestrian-friendly affordable housing” is erected in coastal areas, and the homes are nice, that’ll be another manipulation of housing prices – which always means overall higher prices. Take New York City – please. Massive subletting has led to spying on tenants. One supervisor just was fired for refusing to spy.

If the Rotten Apple just would end all rent control, money would flow in to build new apartments, the greater supply then would reduce overall prices. Oh, and rent control there was a “temporary” expedient during World War II. City politicians haven’t heard that Hitler blew his brains out 71 years ago.

Back to the part-time Legislature. An initiative last was advanced in 2012, but never made it to the ballot. And before that, in 2009, an analysis by Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor found, “Potential annual state savings of tens of millions of dollars.”

As they say in Hollywood: Time for a reboot. Ideal time: November 2018 ballot.

Longtime California journalist John Seiler’s email is: [email protected]

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Gov. Jerry Brown Signs New Climate Change Laws

As reported by NPR:

California is already on track to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Now under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, the state will ratchet up its fight against climate change by launching an ambitious campaign to scale back emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

“This is big, and I hope it sends a message across the country,” Brown said.

California reduced emissions by imposing limits on the carbon content of gasoline and diesel fuel, promoting zero-emission electric vehicles, and introducing a cap-and-trade system for polluters.

The new plan, outlined in SB32, involves increasing renewable energy use, putting more electric cars on the road, improving energy efficiency, and curbing emissions from key industries. …

Click here to read the full article

How Do Voters Really Feel About Climate Change Legislation?

VotedWhen the greenhouse gases extension bill seemed to be stalled in the legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown’s Executive Secretary, Nancy McFadden, said that the administration would get its way on the climate change: Either the bill would pass the legislature or the governor would take his agenda to the ballot. He filed papers for a ballot measure committee as a first step.

Now the bill has jumped a difficult hurdle by passing the Assembly. However, new polling by the California Business Roundtable indicates that the voters might not be so supportive of new regulations if they heard a complete explanation of the law’s effects.

Maybe the climate change debate should go to voters.

The greenhouse gases extension bill, SB 32, which would require greenhouse gas levels to be reduced 40% of 1990 levels by 2030, made it out of the Assembly to face fairly clear sailing in the Senate. Expect it to land on the governor’s desk.

There could be a complication because SB 32 is joined to AB 197, which would give more power to the legislature to oversee the California Air Resources Board. An argument is made that AB 197 could undermine the cap-and-trade law, something the governor wants, especially to help fund his financially struggling bullet train.

The Assembly vote came on a day when the latest cap-and-trade auction results were announced and they continue to show poor results. Hanging over the head of the cap-and-trade law is a question of legitimacy. A lawsuit filed by the California Chamber of Commerce and other business interests presently sits with appellate court judges to determine if the cap-and-trade revenue is a tax. If so, the law requires a two-thirds vote, a standard that was not achieved in the legislature.

Business is particularly concerned with the costs to the economy and to workers if the climate change legislation passes. Tom Scott, president of the small business organization, National Federation of Independent Business/California, said after SB 32 passed the Assembly, “SB 32 will make California even more hostile to small businesses, increasing costs and making them less competitive, discouraging growth and expansion across the state.”

The California Business Roundtable poll showed strong support for the first greenhouse gases (GHG) law. By 66% to 18% the 1200 voters surveyed agreed with the goal of reducing GHG by 2020. The extension to 2030 also received strong support, 63% to 21%.

But when asked if voters knew that state regulations to combat global warming would increase the price of gasoline, electricity and groceries, support collapsed to 47%; opposition rose to 46%.

Opposition skied when the question of lost manufacturing jobs was tested. The potential loss of thousands of middle class jobs garnered only 24% support for the climate change regulations, 66% opposed.

Such arguments would be part of a campaign if the issue comes before voters.

The Business Roundtable poll asked who should enact tougher environmental regulations, the legislators or un-elected state bureaucrats. The legislators prevailed 42% to 28%. But the question seems incomplete. Given the poll results, it probably should have included the voters.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Carbon tax program sputters again

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

When California launched its cap-and-trade program four years ago, the unspoken fear was that the price of carbon emissions credits would soar out of sight and bankrupt manufacturers and other industries forced to buy them.

Now cap and trade, a crucial piece in California’s war on climate change, finds itself with exactly the opposite problem: an excess of credits and insufficient demand. The result is a program that’s stumbling badly and facing an increasingly hazy future in the Legislature.

The cap-and-trade market had another bad day Tuesday, with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of unsold carbon credits left over following the latest state-run auction. Only about 30.8 million credits were sold, each one representing a ton of carbon emissions, out of approximately 96 million credits that went on sale. The auction was held last week, but results weren’t released until Tuesday by the California Air Resources Board.

It was the second straight quarterly auction in which scores of carbon credits failed to attract buyers, although there was higher demand this time around. Last spring’s auction ended with roughly 90 percent of the credits unsold. …

Click here to read the full story

Let’s Pump the Brakes on Cap-and-Trade

cap-and-trade-mindscanner-sstockIn 2006, elected officials gave the California Air Resources Board virtually unchecked authority to implement AB32, which aims to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The legislation, including the controversial cap-and-trade program, expires in four years.

Some lawmakers have already introduced legislation, such as SB32, to extend CARB’s authority. However, instead of rushing to renew this controversial and expensive program, we should slow down and come up with a more affordable solution that benefits all of California.

Cap-and-trade limits carbon emissions by energy producers and raises money through the sale of carbon credits. It’s supposed to fight global warming by making it more expensive to use carbon-based fuels. But that’s not the only thing it does.

It turns out the program has made life more expensive for Californians as well.

Since being given the authority, CARB has implemented a steady stream of costly regulations, such as the “hidden gas tax.” Experts agree that this hidden tax costs California drivers at least 10 cents more in added cost per gallon of gasoline. They also acknowledge CARB’s “low-carbon fuel standard” could add another 13 cents per gallon by 2020.

Motorists might be open to paying these costs if the money actually went towards repairing our crumbling roads. Instead it seems the cap-and-trade program has become a multi-billion dollar slush fund for politicians’ pet projects.

Perhaps intentionally, CARB still hasn’t come up with a systematic way to determine if cap-and-trade dollars are really doing anything to help lower emissions levels.

There is little consensus on what constitutes a “green project.” When pushed for answers, CARB officials deflect. This obscurity allows the governor to direct cap-and-trade funds towards his $71 billion high-speed rail project, which is actually increasing the state’s carbon emissions.

Some cap-and-trade funds were supposed to go towards programs for low-income communities that want to invest in renewable energy. Because CARB is largely free to do as it wishes, there’s no real way of knowing if these grants are reaching their intended targets. That’s a kick in a gut to the less fortunate who supported AB32.

Like you, I want breathable air and clean parks for our children and grandchildren. But do CARB’s unelected bureaucrats really need this much power? Government mandates can be very expensive and inevitably the costs are passed down to consumers. Not everyone can afford a Tesla.

Why can’t we use cap-and-trade funds to solve real problems like emission-causing traffic congestion? Think about it: What pollutes more, a car that reaches its destination quickly or one that’s stuck idling on a freeway for an extra 20 minutes?

A state appeals court has already put the future of cap-and-trade in doubt. And many questions remain, such as how to spend the billions collected and whether or not the program is really an illegal tax. Some doubt CARB has the right to collect the money at all.

There’s also a fierce debate over whether or not regulators can extend the program without the Legislature’s permission. The Legislature’s chief counsel doesn’t think so.

California is already a leader on climate change, and our current law doesn’t expire until 2020. Perhaps we should leave lawmaking to our elected officials, not abdicate power to unelected regulators. Rather than rush an extension, let’s invite the public to join the discussion. Californians deserve clean air, but they also deserve affordable energy—and to know how their dollars are being spent.

George Runner is an elected member of the California State Board of Equalization.

Controversial Carbon Tax Faces Strong Opposition

carbon-tax-1Despite years of success in doing what it was supposed to do — cut emission levels — California’s controversial cap-and-trade system has run up against opposition that could be strong enough to sink it. But with nothing to lose and everything to gain, Gov. Jerry Brown has shifted into political overdrive to save it instead.

Big plans

Through the California Air Resources Board, Brown’s administration has tried to restore confidence among big California businesses that the state’s carbon-trading regime is here to stay. Amendments to the cap-and-trade rules proposed by CARB “envision a carbon market through 2050 with increasing allowance prices,” according to Scientific American. But legal uncertainty has clouded CARB’s ability to promulgate such regulations beyond the year 2020, “thanks to a combination of potentially limiting language in the original climate law, AB32, and a lawsuit challenging the legality of cap-and-trade auctions under a law requiring a two-thirds legislative majority to approve taxes,” the magazine added.

“The amendments released [last month] would establish decreasing emissions caps for covered entities through 2031, to reach 40 percent below 1990 levels, and would include preliminary caps through 2050 ‘to signal the long-term trajectory of the program to inform investment decisions.’ Other proposed amendments would provide for compliance with U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan for existing power plants, allocate allowances to businesses in order to prevent emissions from escaping state borders, and streamline how emitters register and participate in auctions.”

Backrooms to ballots

Despite broad support for an extended cap-and-trade system among influential Democrats, whose grip on Sacramento is virtually unchallenged, California’s legislative counsel has sided against CARB on the extension plan. “Meanwhile, a lawsuit from the California Chamber of Commerce charges that the permit fees are a tax and should have required a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to take effect,” as the San Francisco Chronicle reported. “Although the suit has dragged on for nearly four years, questions raised by an appeals court judge in April suggested that he might side with the chamber.”

The ordeal has presented Gov. Jerry Brown with a potentially devastating threat to one of his keystone policies. Although the governor “has been trying to muster support from at least two-thirds of the Legislature, in case the Chamber of Commerce wins its suit, […] convincing Republicans and business-friendly Democrats hasn’t been easy,” the paper added. “And the current legislative session ends Aug. 31.” Beyond the obvious challenge of securing Republican support, Brown must contend with members of his own party, who have split awkwardly on cap-and-trade since before its inception.

“When the law enabling cap and trade was being argued over, the whole progressive left-of-the-left were pretty suspicious of carbon trading,” as Stanford Law energy expert Michael Wara told Wired. “So the law’s authors offered a compromise: the state Legislature would re-evaluate cap and trade in 2020,” the magazine noted. “It didn’t seem like a big gamble at the time.” But Brown’s determination to use revenues from the program to fund his cherished high-speed rail project — according to environmentalists, not the greenest expenditure to choose from — added another political wrinkle.

Now, the prospect of a drawn-out loss in the Legislature has raised speculation that Brown will respond, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, by taking his plans directly to the voters. Preparing for a showdown, Brown has launched — perhaps for the last time as governor — back into campaign mode. “Mr. Brown last week created a PAC, Californians for a Clean Environment, signaling he may turn to voters for support to extend cap and trade and the state’s emissions-reduction goals through a ballot initiative,” the Wall Street Journal recalled. “The program is particularly important to Mr. Brown, as profits help fund the state’s planned bullet train, among other goals by the state’s Democrats.”

Within the Brown camp, however, the official line has remained more optimistic than the ballot preparations might suggest. “There is no state or nation in the Western Hemisphere doing more to curb carbon pollution and our dangerous addiction to oil than California,” said Brown’s executive secretary, Nancy McFadden, in a statement noted by the Journal. “The governor will continue working with the legislature to get this done this year, next year or on the ballot in 2018.”

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CARB Threatens Greenhouse Gas Law Extention

carbon-tax-1The California Air Resources Board set a match to controversy this week suggesting that the board could push the cap-and-trade deadline for funding greenhouse gas reduction programs past its 2020 end date by executive fiat.

That’s not the way the law works, many Republicans cried, and they are backed up by an opinion from the Legislative Counsel’s Office.

According to the opinion, “The act does not authorize the governor or the ARB to establish a greenhouse gas emissions that is below 1990 level and that would be applicable after 2020.”

Republican Senate Minority Leader Jean Fuller called the ARB proposal “illegal” and admonished the executive branch, “Californians deserve better than a government that acts as if they are above the law.”

Many in the business community feel fixes are needed to the current program before any extension is contemplated. Dorothy Rothrock, president of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association said in a release following the ARB announcement, “Manufacturing investments and jobs have lagged other states in the US over the past six years by a large margin. Future climate policies must recognize this reality and be designed to protect California’s manufacturing jobs and economy.”

The cap-and-trade policy ARB wants to extend is subject to court action already, as business interests, including the California Chamber of Commerce, brought suit claiming the cap-and-trade formula is actually a tax requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature. The law establishing cap-and-trade, AB 32 of 2006, was established by majority vote. While a lower court brushed aside the business complaint an appellate court is now considering the matter. Observers watching court action say there is a chance the lower court decision could be reversed.

There is another way for the legislature and the governor to extend the cap-and-trade end date and lower the greenhouse gases goal below 1990 levels. Pass legislation.

That is exactly what some in the legislature are trying to do with SB 32, that would extend the law lowering the acceptable greenhouse gas level 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

The court case, however, raises doubt about whether the SB 32 needs a simple majority vote or a two-thirds vote.

In a Flash Report column yesterday, state Senator Andy Vidak said attempts are being made by Democratic leaders in the legislature to secure enough Republican votes to allow SB 32 to pass by two-thirds. If true, that is a strong indication that the Democrats are concerned the court will side with the CalChamber over the tax issue and brand cap-and-trade an illegal tax.

Yet, the politics over changing the greenhouse gases law do not stop there. Another consideration is one posed by L.A. Times columnist George Skelton who suggested California voters in November, reacting negatively to a Trump candidacy, might defeat Republican officeholders thus securing a two-thirds vote in both houses of the legislature for the Democrats.

In that case, the strategy for the Democrats just might be to bide their time. Then again, you might conclude that the politics don’t stop at that point, even with a two-thirds Democratic majority, because the politics of energy and its cost have split the Democratic caucus in the past and could do so again.

ditor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily