Governor Gavin Newsom halts California death penalty executions

Death PenaltyChild murderers, rapists and serial killers who tortured their victims with everything from ice picks to a 4-foot twig are set to have their lives spared Wednesday – until at least 2023 – as California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs an executive order to halt death penalties in the state.

The controversial decision by the Democrat – which has drawn the ire of one of his adversaries, President Trump – was influenced by his belief that California’s death penalty system “has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation.”

Newsom, in prepared remarks he is expected to deliver Wednesday, also says the system has wasted “billions of taxpayer dollars”.

The state’s residents though, in 2016, narrowly struck down a ballot measure to repeal the death penalty. And Newsom’s decree appears to be a flip-flop from what he told the editorial board of the Modesto Bee newspaper that year while campaigning for the failed measure – that he would “not get my personal opinions in the way of the public’s right to make a determination of where they want to take us” on the issue. …

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Newsom delays threat to block transportation funds to cities that flunk housing goals

LA-Freeway-Xchange-110-105In his first week in office, Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a strong warning to cities and counties: He was coming for their road repair dollars if they didn’t meet state goals for new housing.

“If you’re not hitting your goals, I don’t know why you get the money,” Newsom said when he announced his budget plans in January.

Two months later, Newsom is setting aside plans to withhold state transportation dollars from local governments for four years. The move, which comes after fellow Democrats pushed back on the idea, is part of a larger acknowledgment that revamping how California plans for growth will be more arduous than the governor implied on the campaign trail. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Diego Union-Tribune

This Train Won’t Leave the Station

High Speed Rail ConstructionGovernor Gavin Newsom has canceled the bulk of the state’s long-proposed high-speed line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, leaving only a tail of the once-grand project — a connection between the Central Valley’s Merced and Bakersfield, not exactly major metropolitan areas. “Let’s be real,” Newsom said in his first State of the State address. “The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.” The project’s cost, originally pegged at $33 billion, ballooned over the last decade to an estimated $77 billion (or maybe as high as $98 billion), with little reason to assume that the cost inflation would end there.

This effectively puts an end to former governor Jerry Brown’s “legacy” project, the lone tangible accomplishment for a second gubernatorial stint that had been far better at raising taxes and imposing draconian legislation than building things. Brown wanted to build his beloved train in a state with some of the nation’s worst roads (despite its second-highest gas taxes), a deteriorating water-delivery system, and massive pension debt. With Brown finally in retirement, Newsom took the opportunity to free up billions of dollars that his Democratic allies would like to spend in other ways.

Perhaps the most critical national casualty may be the Green New Deal proposed by New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Much of her platform for a ten-year transformation of the American economy centers on transportation. In her bid to kill the internal-combustion engine, Ocasio-Cortez apparently seeks to eliminate both cars and planes. Her favored solution for cross-continental travel: a massive network of high-speed trains.

Some of this must seem fanciful even to the democratic-socialist heartthrob from the Bronx. In contrast with Western Europe, where several high-speed rail lines operate, the United States has huge distances between cities; its average population density is generally lower than that of the European continent. Even on the California coast, a 450-mile high-speed rail trip from  Los Angeles to San Francisco would have taken nearly four hours, compared with a one-hour plane ride. Imagine taking high-speed rail from Los Angeles to Chicago: a three-hour trip by plane becomes a 15-hour or longer trek across vast, empty spaces. During that time, the traveler would cover more high-speed rail mileage than the current length of the entire French system.

Even fervent supporters of the Green New Deal must recognize what California’s cancellation means: if high-speed rail is not feasible in the state with the three densest major metro areas in the nation, and the highest overall urban density, it is not feasible anywhere else in the United States. (And not just here: Britain’s proposed high-speed rail megaproject, HS2, also appears on the verge of cancellation. Sounding like Governor Newsom, a senior government official told Channel 4’s Dispatches public affairs program: “The costs are spiraling so much we’ve been actively considering other scenarios, including scrapping the entire project.”) It also suggests that the costs for a national network would be formidable and would require the printing presses at the Treasury to work overtime. Of the many high-speed rail lines built in the developed world, only two (Tokyo-Osaka and Paris-Lyon) have ever been profitable, and in each case highway tolls for the same routes exceed $80 one-way, making high-speed rail in those cases an economical consumer choice. California, the green heart of the resistance, has met fiscal reality; reality won.

Some greens and train enthusiasts, such as the deep-blue Los Angeles Timeseditorial board, have criticized Newsom’s move, and others remain adamant in their support of the plane-to-train trope. But California, which has embarked on its own Green New Deal of sorts, has seen these results:  high energy and housing costs, and the nation’s highest cost-adjusted poverty rate, and a society that increasingly resembles a feudal social order. Attempts to refashion global climate in one state reflects either a peculiarly Californian hubris or a surfeit of revolutionary zeal.

Of course, Newsom and the bullet train’s supporters justify spending billions more on the Central Valley line as a way of reviving the terribly challenged, impoverished economy of that region. Yet greens and their allies have already shown what comes of putting their ideas into practice—cutting water supplies to farmers, blocking new energy production, and leaving Route 99, the Valley’s main thoroughfare, in such awful shape that it has been named the country’s most dangerous highway. The Valley does not need a bullet train to nowhere. It needs, rather, policies that allow for its basic industries, such as agriculture, manufacturing, and energy, to expand and provide desperately needed jobs. Oil-rich California has been replacing in-state production for imported petroleum, to the enrichment of Saudi Arabia but to the detriment of California workers.

Newsom’s pullback from Brown’s Olympian high-speed rail vision may reflect growing concerns about the state’s economy. After several years of fairly robust growth, California’s job machine is now producing employment at mediocre rates, and worse than that in its biggest urban area, Los Angeles. The real-estate market, which was driving some of the revenue gains, appears stuck, with sales down and prices headed in that direction, though the regulatory environment is skewed to facilitate price escalation. If stock performance is weak, California could see its greatest source of revenue—capital gains from Silicon Valley—reduced. The last quarter saw falling tax collections, and any hiccup in the tech money machine, or even a mild recession, could prove devastating, as Brown himself warned before leaving office.

In Washington, Ocasio-Cortez and others will continue to push their fantastical Green New Deal, at least until the Senate votes on it. With the utterly predictable demise of California’s high-speed rail project, however, the Golden State may prove the unlikely place where would-be planetary redeemers were brought back to earth.

How Many Bills Will Governor Newsom Sign?

Bills and legislationFebruary 22 was the deadline for the introduction of bills for consideration during the 2019 California Legislative Session. A total of 2,576 bills were introduced by the deadline. There are about 1,800 Assembly Bills and over 775 Senate Bills that were introduced. This is a higher number than has been introduced in more than half a dozen years.

So, how many of these bills will reach Governor Newsom’s Desk and how many will he sign? So far, two budget/appropriations bills have reached his desk and both were signed earlier this month.

We obviously will not know the answer to this question until the final bill is acted upon in mid-October; but, if history is a guide, we would expect over 1,000 measures to be signed this year, with about half of those that were introduced to reach the Governor’s Desk for final action.

There were 1,217 bills that reached Governor Brown’s Desk in 2018 out of 2,225 bills introduced (694 Senate Bills and 1,531 Assembly Bills). 55% of the bills introduced made it to the Governor’s Desk last year with 45% of the bills introduced getting signed into law and 9% of the bills introduced getting vetoed.

During the last eight years that Governor Brown served in office, he received a low of 870 bills (his first year in office) to a high of 1,217 (his last year in office). His veto rate was a low of 10.7% (his third year in office) to a high of 16.5% (his last year in office).

I’ll venture a guess. If history is a guide, I am going to speculate that roughly half of this year’s bills reach Governor Newsom’s Desk (1,285), and that he vetoes about 12% of them (155) and signs about 88% of them (1,130). We’ll check back after September 13!

Chris Micheli is a Principal with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

San Francisco Embraced a New Religion: Drug Normalization

San Francisco, CA, USADrugs are destroying San Francisco’s most densely populated and desirable neighborhoods, as more and more addicts, many of them homeless, fill the streets. Politicians and activists are pushing “harm reduction,” which, in a clinical sense, means a “set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use,” such as overdose or the transmission of disease. But in a contemporary context, it also means “a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.”

Harm reduction, originally a controversial public-health measure, has become a religion among advocates, even as fears that the practice would normalize drug use have been borne out. Organizations like the San Francisco Drug Users Union demand “a safe environment where people can use & enjoy drugs” and a “positive image of drug users to engender respect within our community and from outside our community.” True believers dominate City Hall as well as a network of affiliated, politicized nonprofits that operate in the city with little oversight or accountability. In this environment, questioning harm reduction or its effects borders on heresy. But are the programs actually helping impoverished addicts? And what is the impact on the community?

The Department of Public Health distributes 4.45 million needles each year to the city’s 22,000 intravenous drug users. Heroin and prescription opioids are the most injected substances, though use of methamphetamines and Fentanyl is on the rise. It’s true that sterile needles reduce the transmission of blood-borne infections, and injecting narcotics under supervision can lower the risk of overdose and death. But harm reduction goes far beyond promoting these kinds of needle-safety measures. For example, At the Crossroads, a nonprofit, assembled “safe snorting kits” for at-risk and homeless youth. Baggies were filled with straws, chopping mats, plastic razor blades, and instruction sheets. Other groups offer crack-cocaine “safe-smoking” kits. A proposal to open “safe injection” sites, opposed by Jerry Brown, is favored by Governor Gavin Newsom, and is likely to succeed.

Harm-reduction efforts are sometimes sold as ways to connect with addicts, offer them other services, and help them get off drugs. But those laudable goals are not really what motivate advocates, who want mostly to remove the stigma surrounding drug use. Addicts may eventually pursue treatment or stop using on their own, but a central principle of harm-reduction theory is accepting and respecting drug use. As a result, an astonishing number of addicts on San Francisco streets hover on the edge of death, despite a continuous supply of clean needles.

Visit city neighborhoods ranging from the iconic Union Square and the Financial District to historically troubled areas such as the Tenderloin, Civic Center, and South of Market, and the unintended consequences of harm reduction become hard to ignore. The advocates have certainly succeeded in reducing stigma—it’s easy to find people openly injecting into their arms, legs, toes, and necks. Their exposed flesh shows infected sores; they stumble, fall, and pass out. There seem to be more of them, and in worse condition, every day. Addicts congregate on sidewalks, in parks, subway stations, and outside businesses. They die in school doorways.

As for the needles, addicts are encouraged to take as many as they want. The city program does not involve needle exchange, so it offers no incentive properly to dispose of used needles. San Francisco’s streets and transportation system are littered with discarded syringes. After massive public outcry (and streams of embarrassing media reports) about the proliferation of hazardous medical waste on the streets and sidewalks, the city contracted with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, at approximately $1 million per year, to hire a cleanup crew. Roughly 60 percent of the needles now get collected.

Meantime, quality of life in the city continues to erode. Tourism is threatenedretailers close, and families leave. Yet harm-reduction zealots remain adamant in their views. During public discussions about safe-injection sites, they dismiss legitimate concerns about increased drug-dealing, burglaries, violence, and vagrancy. In community meetings, Department of Public Health representatives disregard residents’ misgivings. Typical complaints—“Why are you doing this? Bloody needles are everywhere, people are injecting in front of my kid’s preschool, I’m afraid to take my dog for a walk”—are met with responses that usually begin, “This is harm reduction.” In San Francisco’s brave new world, there is no room for the skeptic.

Gov. Newsom Shifts National Guard to Fighting Marijuana Black Market

Marijuana1Gov. Gavin Newsom is shifting the California National Guard from border enforcement to cracking down on the illegal marijuana industry — even though he was an advocate for the legalization of the drug.

After announcing earlier this month that he was scaling down the National Guard presence near the border, Newsom shifted resources to fighting illegal marijuana farms, which are maintaining a black market that makes it difficult for legal suppliers to thrive, and that deprives the state of tax revenues that it expected legalization would provide.

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday:

ast week, Newsom announced an expansion of efforts by the California National Guard to work with federal officials to target the black market, including illegal drug grows in Northern California operated by international drug cartels.

The governor proposed that at least 150 California National Guard troops would be redeployed from the U.S.-Mexico border to join a federally funded Counterdrug Task Force. The new forces would focus on illicit cannabis activity in Northern California.

As much as 80% of the marijuana sold in California comes from the black market, according to an estimate by New Frontier Data, a firm that tracks cannabis sales and trends. Analysts also found that California’s illicit pot market was valued at an estimated $3.7 billion last year, more than four times the size of the legal market.

In addition to black market woes, marijuana entrepreneurs in California are frustrated at the slow pace of local permitting processes for dispensaries.

California voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana by passing Proposition 64 in 2016.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Trump Administration Demands California Pay Back Over $2 Billion for Bullet Train

High Speed Rail FresnoThe Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it is exploring “every legal option” to reclaim $2.5 billion in federal funds spent by California on its now-defunct high-speed rail project, and also that it intends to cancel $928 million in federal grants not yet paid for the project to link Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The move was a dramatic escalation in the ongoing war of words and policy between California and the White House. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, declared during his State of the State address last week that he was shelving plans for the $77 billion rail project that had been championed by environmental groups, admitting that “as currently planned, [it] would cost too much and take too long.”

In response to the Trump administration’s legal threat Tuesday, Newsom vowed that he would not sit “idly by” as the White House engaged in what he called “political retribution” against California. …

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Don’t Derail the Bullet Train Derailment

Gov. Jerry Brown, Anne GustEven before California’s High Speed Rail bond proposal appeared on the ballot in November 2008, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association commissioned a study in conjunction with the Reason Foundation because of deep concerns about the project’s viability. The study, published in September 2008, just prior to the election, confirmed our worst fears. Specifically, the executive summary of the nearly 200-page document warned:

“The CHSRA plans as currently proposed are likely to have very little relationship to what would eventually be built due to questionable ridership projections and cost assumptions, overly optimistic projections of ridership diversion from other modes of transport, insufficient attention to potential speed restrictions and safety issues and discounting of potential community or political opposition. Further, the system’s environmental benefits have been grossly exaggerated, especially with respect to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that have been associated with climate change.”

In the ensuing decade, it became increasingly clear that every negative prediction about the project came to be realized. Even initial advocates of the project, including a former chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority, turned against the costly boondoggle.

The capstone of criticism came at the end of 2018 when California’s own state auditor issued a scathing report excoriating the project’s mismanagement, waste and lack of transparency. To understand just how damning the HSR audit was, just consider the subtitle: “Flawed Decision Making and Poor Contract Management Have Contributed to Billions in Cost Overruns and Delays in the System’s Construction.”

To read the entire column, please click here.

California’s gun seizure program hits hurdles

Gun seizureAuthorities in California are struggling to enforce a state law that permits officials to seize firearms from people with previous criminal convictions or mental health issues – running into staffing and budgetary issues that have contributed to a massive backlog of guns marked for confiscation.

The law, which was passed in 2013 following the shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook elementary school and set aside $24 million for seizure programs, had a goal of confiscating around 20,000 guns over three years. But six years later, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report, there are still roughly 9,000 of those guns out there, with more being added to the list yearly.

While the state’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, has made gun control a priority of his new administration and has proposed a multi-million-dollar increase to hire more agents, the program reportedly has been hit by retention issues and a lack of experience among new agents. …

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California Housing Crisis Prolonged By Policymakers

housingWith every idea offered as a serious “solution,” it becomes clearer why California has a housing crisis. The thinking is stuck on policies that aggravate rather than improve.

The latest ill-considered proposal picking up support would enact price-gouging laws to keep rental costs in check. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, have publicly endorsed the idea. Gov. Gavin Newsom has carved out a similar position, railing in his State of the State address against “rent spikes,” and promising to sign “a good package on rent stability this year” if the Legislature sends him one.

Wiener sees price-gouging legislation as a temporary step, telling KPBS News “we need to take action to keep people stable in the housing that they have.” What it will do instead is ensure new units will never go up. If price-gouging laws bar owners from charging market rates, there’s little incentive to build.

Price-gouging laws would be especially damaging in California, which continues to suffer through a brutal housing shortage. The state needs about 100,000 housing units built each year in addition to the 100,000 to 140,000 units that are usually built, says the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. Stealing the profit motive won’t get that done.

We’re dealing with an easily understandable law of economics. The record shows, says University of Michigan-Flint economist Mark J. Perry, that “the unintended and unseen adverse consequences of enforcing price-gouging laws are predictable, unfortunate, and avoidable.” Those consequences are artificial shortages.

When government halts the price increases that spontaneously occur due to shortages that follow natural disasters, it would on the surface appear to be a response no decent person could object to. But it’s those few who speak out against price-gouging laws who are the true humanitarians.

Here’s what happens when the law sets limits on the prices of high-demand items after natural disasters: Supplies are exhausted, leaving some emptyhanded. Both established businesses and entrepreneurs will rush goods to these consumers, often from long distances and at heavy costs, but only if they can make a profit. Price caps, however, prevent suppliers from earning profits, which means those who need lumber, generators, fuel, food, and other emergency goods will go without.

One story shows how poisonous price-gouging laws are. In 2005, a Kentucky man bought 19 generators, rented a truck, and drove to Mississippi where hurricane victims were in desperate need of power. He priced the generators at twice the cost he paid to cover his investment and earn a profit. Instead, he was arrested for price gouging, the generators were seized, and 19 Mississippi families who could have had power were forced to further endure 19th century conditions.

Placing rents under price-gouging laws would have the same effect as rent-control laws, as would Newsom’s “good package” of rent-stability legislation. All create a disincentive for developers to increase the housing stock. They won’t – in fact, cannot – build unless they are able to earn a profit.

Like the Carolinas in the aftermath of the hurricane, California’s housing market is also a disaster area – though not due to natural calamity. It’s been wrecked brick by brick through compounded human error. Lawmakers have for decades passed legislation, starting with the California Environmental Quality Act in 1970, and approved local ordinances that have consumed the profit motive needed to build. The tangle of policy, which includes affordable-housing mandates, building-permit snares, county and municipal regulations, and unchecked NIMBYism, is an effective barrier to new housing in California.

While Newsom, Garcetti, Schaaf, Wiener, and others in Sacramento think about strangling an already-wheezing market with price-gouging laws, a coalition of developers, politicians, tenant activists, business leaders, and union representatives has dreamed up something called the CASA Compact “to confront the housing crisis in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

The 10-point plan makes some good points, particularly regarding regulatory and zoning relief, expedited permit and approval processes, and better utilization of public lands. But it also proposes to “establish a Bay Area-wide rent cap that limits annual increases in rent to a reasonable amount.”

Every member of the coalition should know better – and they probably do – than to support rent-control laws. It’s no secret that they discourage building. Even Paul Krugman, the political left’s go-to columnist who once played an economist, acknowledges that rent control’s negative effects are “among the best-understood issues in all of economics, and — among economists, anyway — one of the least controversial.”

That rent control is perpetually floated as an answer to California’s housing crunch helps explain why the crisis has become intractable.

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