California lawmakers divided over long waits at DMV offices

dmvLong wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles were the subject of continued controversy Wednesday at a Capitol hearing and at a campaign event where Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox said the problem has been mishandled.

The Assembly Budget Committee voted 15 to 10 Wednesday on a budget bill that allows the DMV to pursue an additional $26 million to speed up the processing of licenses at field offices. But the agency must justify any request in writing and provide a monthly report on how money is being spent.

“It’s absolutely appropriate that we continue to follow up and understand how these resources are deployed so that these wait times, which are a statewide issue, can be addressed across the board,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the committee’s chairman.

The budget bill was opposed by a bloc of Republicans, including Assemblyman Jay Obernolte of Big Bear Lake, who said DMV officials last week could not satisfactorily explain what they plan to do with $16 million that was provided earlier this month. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Without housing fix, Silicon Valley will falter

Silicon ValleyThree times in the past 18 months, prominent journalistic organizations have questioned whether Silicon Valley has peaked. Leading off the bad-mouthing was the hometown San Jose Mercury News, which reported in September 2016 that tech growth had slowed in the area compared with other regions and noted that Santa Clara County was down nearly 21,000 tech jobs from its 2000 peak.

That was followed by the London Guardian reporting in May 2017 that start-ups were increasingly likely to fail as the tech venture-capital model struggled, and by Bloomberg News reporting in September 2017 that the high cost of housing was leaving thousands of jobs unfilled.

This month, the Silicon Valley Competitiveness and Innovation Project, which is headed by the San Jose-based Silicon Valley Leadership Group, released a report on the region that was at least as bleak as the media accounts. It said Silicon Valley was still thriving and a global leader – but that it was unlikely to maintain its status as the U.S. pace-setter in creating tech jobs unless housing construction sharply increased, to end the upward spiral in rent and mortgage payments. A modest tract house can fetch more than $1 million in San Jose and triple that in wealthier suburbs. Rental costs, even in less affluent neighborhoods, are among the nation’s highest.

“The gap between job and housing growth is large and widening,” stated the report, which defined Silicon Valley as including the city-county of San Francisco, Santa Clara County and San Mateo County.

Many of the key findings were based on comparisons of where Silicon Valley stood in 2010 versus 2016. The study noted there was a 29 percent increase in payroll jobs during that span, but only a 4 percent increase in total housing units. As more people were forced to commute to Silicon Valley, the average commute lengthened by 18.9 percent over the six years.

“An average Silicon Valley commuter now spends 72 minutes commuting per day, round trip. This figure has grown marginally since last year and remains second only to the commute time of New York City workers, who spend 74 minutes commuting,” the report noted.

Region’s population fell despite economic boom

Silicon Valley saw another negative landmark in 2016. Despite a booming economy, the report cited U.S. Census Bureau population estimates showing the region had a slight decline in population.

The downbeat report came as no surprise to one former Silicon Valley resident: Santa Cruz attorney Kate Downing, who resigned from the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission and moved from the city in 2016 because her family could no longer handle Palo Alto’s housing costs. She told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We’re just not building enough housing. More correctly, cities are not permitting developers to build enough housing. … I think more affordable housing would have kept us in Silicon Valley.”

Lawmakers from the region have had some success in trying to make it easier to build homes in California. State Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, was the lead author of a bill enacted in 2017 that limits cities with bad records on new housing from preventing new projects that meet basic zoning rules.

This year, Weiner and co-authors Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, have introduced Senate Bill 827. With exceptions, it would make it far easier to build small apartment-condo buildings up to 85 feet in height within a half-mile of a transit center.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

San Francisco Politician Wants to Outlaw Gas-Powered Cars

Electric CarSacramento is threatening to outlaw a freedom Californians have enjoyed for more than a century through a bill introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting, of San Francisco. If it’s passed and signed, new gasoline-powered cars will become the state’s new undocumented immigrants. Government will refuse to register them.

Should it become law, Assembly Bill 1745 would, beginning Jan. 1, 2040, “prohibit the department from accepting an application for original registration of a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is a zero-emissions vehicle.” Commercial vehicles weighing 10,001 pounds or more when fully loaded are exempt as are vehicles brought in from other states.

While the San Francisco Democrat insists a transition to electric vehicles is necessary to sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions, the argument has more smoke than fire. Speculation that man is overheating his planet due to Industrial Age atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations is far from settled science.

The latest research shows how the science continues to unfold. An academic study released just last week reported that the doomsday, worst-case scenario, the most extreme projection that global warming alarmists commonly cite, isn’t credible. The climate’s reaction to CO2 simply isn’t as intense as they claim. Lead researcher Peter Cox of Exeter University said both the low and high sensitivities had been all but ruled out.

The virtues of “zero-emissions” vehicles are overhyped, as well. There are few bona fide zero-emission vehicles in California or elsewhere. Their batteries aren’t charged by the dynamos of political rhetoric. Unless 100 percent of the state’s electric power is generated by sources that emit no greenhouse gases nor pollutants by 2040 — Sacramento’s goal is 2045 — a sizable portion of zero-emissions vehicles will be charged by electricity generated at power plants whose smokestacks vent the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion. Electric cars don’t have tailpipes, yet most still have a carbon footprint.

Also conveniently missing from the electric vehicle discussion is the environmental damage unleashed by their assembly. Even before their tires hit asphalt, they are belching emissions. Building a Tesla Model S P100D, for example, produces more than 12,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This includes emissions discharged in the mining and transportation of rare earths needed to produce electric cars’ hulking batteries.

Meanwhile, production emissions from a gasoline-guzzling BMW 750i — 17 mpg city, 25 highway — are only 8,190 kilograms of CO2 equivalent. Building a gasoline-powered subcompact Mitsubishi Mirage emits a mere 4,752 kilograms of CO2 equivalent.

Though the BMW’s use emissions are about twice as high as the Tesla’s, the Mirage’s are less than the electric car. The Mirage is also cleaner over its entire lifecycle, which includes emissions produced when an automobile is scrapped. If the electric-vehicle campaign were more about actually cutting emissions and less about virtue signaling and raw politics, wouldn’t Sacramento be pushing us into subcompacts instead of EVs?

Not that that is an acceptable alternative. A nation of ostensibly free people should not be saddled with a 21st century Trabant, the 20th century “peoples car” of the captive East German population.

Given our rich car culture that delights in cubic-inch displacement, and the hum and roar of combustion, it’s reasonable to believe that most Californians would not be terribly interested in EVs if it weren’t for the interventions of political nags. As Pacific Research Institute fellow Wayne Winegarden says in his upcoming electric vehicle study, without the taxpayer-funded subsidies, “a robust EV market will not develop.”

Winegarden’s research proves his point.

“After Hong Kong eliminated its tax break for EVs in April 2017, registrations of new Tesla electric cars in Hong Kong fell from 2,939 to zero,” he says. “Similarly, after Georgia eliminated its $5,000 EV subsidy in 2015, EV sales fell 89 percent in two months.”

Even with as much as $42 billion in spent and promised federal subsidies, and billions more issued by the states, fewer than 352,000 EVs have been sold in the U.S., according to Winegarden. That’s less than one percent of the entire market.

Despite EVs’ thin popularity, policymakers have determined that those are the cars we have to buy. It’s a policy decision sure to create electric-car dissidents who will resent the day they lost their power to choose. The fact that the law is a wholly unnecessary stunt will only make it hurt more.

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

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Assembly wants to spend $1 billion on health coverage for illegal immigrants

California, flush with cash from an expanding economy, would eventually spend $1 billion a year to provide health care to immigrants living in the state illegally under a proposal announced Wednesday by Democratic lawmakers.

The proposal would eliminate legal residency requirements in California’s Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal, as the state has already done for young people up to age 19.

It’s part of $4.3 billion in new spending proposed by Assemblyman Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat who leads the budget committee. Assembly Democrats also want to expand a tax credit for the working poor, boost preschool and child care, and increase college scholarships to reduce reliance on student loans.

They also would commit $3.2 billion more than required to state budget reserves. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Proposed CA Law Would Allow Bicyclists to Run Stop Signs

If two California lawmakers have their way, bicyclists will soon be able to run stop signs without stopping or even slowing down — in essence, legalizing the “California roll.”

According to a Los Angeles Times article, the “two-tiered approach to the rules of the road — one for cyclists and one for cars — is unlikely to ease growing tensions over sharing California’s roadways.”

The Assembly members proposing the measure, Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Jay Obernolte, R-Hesperia, claim it would enhance public safety.

It may not be an easy sell, but Obernolte, an avid bicyclist himself, told the Times that allowing cyclists to run stop signs would reduce road congestion.  His theory is that since bicyclists would still have to stop at red lights, they might be “motivated them to take less-traveled side roads rather than main roadbicycle stop sign with traffic signals.”

That could lessen congestion and boost safety, he said.  Obernolte also claims that stopping at stop signs puts cyclists at greater risk, according to the same Times piece.  “Their loss of momentum causes them to spend a substantially longer amount of time in the intersection.”

What neither Obernolte nor Ting nor the Times addressed was the impact of the proposed policy on innocent bystanders.  In Ting’s own San Francisco, the Chronicle reported a 2013 fatality caused by a cyclist blowing through multiple stop signs on a downhill road and fatally striking a 71 year-old Sutchi Hui, of San Bruno, after running a red light. While the cyclist cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for pleading guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter, his case illustrates how  changing the “same road, same rights, same rules” mentality could lead to more tragedies.

According to some bicycle advocates and traffic-safety experts quoted in the Times story, the greatest threat when it comes to the rules of the road is uncertainty—and any new law that creates uncertainty is likely to increase the potential for more untimely deaths.

The powerful bicycle lobby scored a victory in 2013, requiring motorists to maintain a 3-foot or greater distance from cyclists or risk being fined.  Initially, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown—echoing my own opposition speech on the Assembly floor (after the tragic death of a 48-year-old Kevin Garland, killed in a head-on collision in 2011 in the district now represented by Obernolte) because it would have allowed motorists to cross the double-yellow line on two-lane highways, increasing the chances of a head-on collision and opening the state and municipalities up to unlimited liability.

Exemptions to laws tend to breed resentment among those who must continue to obey them. Allowing bicyclists to “opt out” of stop signs may have the same effect.

“There’s nothing more frustrating to the average citizen than a law that’s selectively enforced,” Obernolte told the Times.

In the end, that might just stop this bill.

Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman.

Author, Patriot Not Politician: Win or Go Homeless

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/tim.donnelly.12/

Twitter:  @PatriotNotPol

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Will Taxpayers Be Mugged by Sacramento?

TaxesGovernor Brown has just released his spending proposal for 2017-18 and taxpayers should not be blamed if they feel like they are walking down a dark alley in a high-crime neighborhood.

While the governor’s proposed budget has been described as austere, it still represents a spending boost of 5 percent, a rate of increase only slightly smaller than last year’s 6 percent. Because the state is in the process of rewarding its employees with generous pay increases and covering an expanding requirement to fund their pensions — pensions that are currently subsidized by six percent of the general fund budget — more spending does not represent an increase in the quantity or quality of services for average Californians.

The Brown budget contains no major program increases except for transportation. But the kicker is that this would be contingent on higher taxes on gasoline and car registration. So, while state workers will be kept snug and comfortable, if commuters want those pot holes repaired, they must pay extra.

However, the governor’s budget should not be regarded as anything more than a place holder, as the ability to fund it is threatened from all directions. The new administration in Washington, as well as a majority of both houses of Congress, have made it clear that Obamacare is on the verge of elimination. There can be little doubt that federal funding for California’s massive expansion of Medicaid is in jeopardy. Because, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, a government program is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth, no one will be surprised when Sacramento looks to average taxpayers to make up the nearly $16 billion-dollar difference.

Then there is uncertain tax revenue. The extension of the nation’s highest income tax rates renders California highly vulnerable to economic fluctuations. Although growth had been tepid, we have experienced 90 months of economic expansion and financial experts warn us to be prepared for the next downturn.

As if these threats were not enough, Brown will have to contend with elements in his own party who believe in the axiom of former Senate leader, David Roberti, “When you’ve got it, spend it,” to which they would add the corollary, “If you don’t have it, spend it anyway.”

Chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, Phil Ting, has already made it clear that he does not want to budget assuming the worst, that the Legislature must continue “investing in California,” a budgetary approach akin to Admiral David Farragut’s at the battle of Mobile Bay, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” While Farragut was successful, is it appropriate to put California taxpayers at dire risk through imprudent spending?

In May, the governor will issue a revised budget, no doubt with major changes, in advance of the June 15 deadline for final passage. If revenue is down, taxpayers may be treated to the spectacle of a cage match between those committed to spending, backed by their special interest allies, and those who advocate a slightly more cautious approach.

In Sacramento, fiscal sanity is relative. Ironically, our eccentric governor who thinks nothing of lavishing nearly $100 billion on a bullet train, may be the dwindling middle class’s best hope to fend off major increases to their already staggering tax burden.

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 article was originally published by HJTA.org

California regulators permit Uber and Lyft to offer carpooling services

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

State regulators on Thursday granted companies such as Uber and Lyft permission to offer carpooling, sanctioning a service that has allowed fast-growing San Francisco companies to offer lower-cost rides.

After weeks of delays, the California Public Utilities Commission voted 4-1 on Thursday to approve commercial carpooling. Commissioner Mike Florio cast the sole vote opposing the motion because he wasn’t convinced that the decision was legal.

“If I were in the Legislature, I’d vote for this, but I’m not,” Florio said during the PUC meeting in San Francisco. “I think what the Legislature has said is clear: An individual fare is an individual fare, and we cannot go with this approach.”

Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill a year ago to change a 50-year-old Californian law that …

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