‘Surf City’ First in Nation to Repeal Plastic Bag Ban

On Tuesday night, on an overwhelming 6-1 vote, the city council of Huntington Beach, California–which is officially known as “Surf City, USA“–directed the city staff to begin the process of repealing a policy that bans the use of plastic grocery bags, and requires grocery stores to charge a ten-cent fee on paper bags.

This coastal city in Orange County, which boasts 9.5 miles of beautiful beaches, is about to make history, as never before has a city with such a bag ban ever repealed it.

The city’s bag ban was an issue in last year’s council elections, and all four council members who won election were public in their support for repealing it, defeating two incumbents who had voted in favor.

Breitbart News spoke with Councilman Mike Posey, who placed the repeal onto the council agenda, and made the motion for its passage. He was crystal clear on his motive. “The intention of the bag ban was to reduce litter and improve the environment. We have no verifiable proof that our local bag ban has done anything to reduce locally sourced and discarded single-use plastic bags. Littering of any kind is unacceptable, but we already have laws in place to address littering.”

Posey added, “”I believe in protecting the environment, and I treasure the beach, ocean, air and environment. I drive a clean diesel-powered car and telecommute a few days per week. I am not necessarily an environmentalist but am steadfastly environmentally conscious. I also value freedom. However, litter from plastic bags is caused by misuse and not use, and I object to punishing everyone because some people choose to litter.”

Other Councilmembers supporting the vote to begin the bag ban repeal process were Dave Sullivan, Barbara Delgleize, Erik Petersen, Billy O’Connell and Dave Katapodis (the latter of whom actually voted for the original ban, but who has apparently changed his mind). Mayor Jill Hardy cast the lone dissenting vote.

Former mayor Matthew Harper, who had been on the losing end of the ban vote in 2012, but who was just elected to the California State Assembly this last November, lauded the actions of the city council.

“The vote to begin the process of repealing the ill-advised ban is a step forward for the local community,” he said. “Whether you look at this as a consumer choice issue, or from the perspective that the ban seeks to correct an alleged problem that is not prevalent on our beaches, I applaud the council’s overwhelming vote.”

The city’s plastic bag ban/paper bag fee ordinance was adopted in 2012 amidst much controversy, with the Surfrider Foundation, major proponents of the ban, committing to cover the city’s $20,000 cost of conducting a necessary environmental impact report.

While the city moved forward at the time, ultimately adopting the ban, it is worth noting that the Surfriders never did make good on their pledge.

Last year, in the final hours of the California legislature’s session, legislators put SB 270 onto Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, and he signed the statewide ban on plastic grocery bags, which required grocers to charge at least ten cents for every paper bag used.

However, right after Brown signed the bill, the American Progressive Plastic Bag Alliance, an industry group, announced that it would seek to gather the signatures necessary to trigger a statewide referendum on the bill.  A few months later they turned in over 800,000 signatures of registered voters, well above the required 504,760 number.

The effect of qualifying the referendum is that SB 270 does not go into effect, and instead the question of whether to ban plastic grocery bags and mandate a fee on paper bags will appear on the 2016 general election ballot.

For years more extreme environmental activist groups had been trying, without success, to pass a statewide ban on plastic bags. Year after year, the effort was beaten back by a coalition made up of bag manufacturers, grocers, liberty-oriented groups, and groups concerned that a bag ban is regressive and adversely impacts the poor.

The lynchpin for the ban finally passing was the placing of the mandatory ten-cent fee on paper bags into the bill, with the profits from that fee (double the actual cost of the paper bags) going straight to the profit margin of grocery stores. That amounts to hundreds of million of dollars of years to grocers, and thus it is not surprising, if alarming, that with this economic incentive the California Grocers Association abandoned its traditional opposition to the ban, instead reversing its position to support it.

There is no doubt that Surf City’s repeal of its local ordinance will be featured in the statewide campaign against the bag ban on next year’s ballot.

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R), who along with Harper lives in and represents Huntington Beach and who testified to the Council in support of repealing the ban, told Breitbart News, “Huntington Beach reversing their ban is proof that a one-size-fits-all statewide ban on plastic bags is a terrible idea.”

The projected timeline for the final repeal of Huntington Beach’s ban, after the results of an environmental impact report, and the requisite multiple votes on the repeal, is late May.

Originally published in Breitbart CA.

California Gold Miners Score Win Over State

As reported by Dan Walters at the Sacramento Bee:

California’s 21st century gold miners have scored a second major victory over state efforts to restrict – or ban – them from searching for the precious metal in rivers and streams on federally owned land, such as national forests.

On Monday, San Bernardino County Judge Gilbert Ochoa, building on a previous decision by a state appellate court, declared that the state’s moratorium on using suction dredges to sift through gravel had become a de facto ban and thus violated federal mining law, which encourages mining on federal lands.

His ruling was a victory for the Western Mining Alliance, which has battled the moratorium signed into law in 2009 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. While the law allowed …

Read the full story here

Net Neutrality = Regulate My Competitor

In a major development in the ongoing debate over net neutrality, President Obama announced his support for a strict regulatory regime to govern the Internet. The President framed the discussion around a good-faith need to protect innovators and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, he has fallen for a cynical ploy that some Silicon Valley companies and advocacy groups are using to push an extreme regulatory agenda for the Internet.

Unfortunately, the innovative companies we take for granted to enrich our lives are not always the altruistic companies we think they are especially when it comes to exerting influence in Washington.

Take for example Netflix, who has transformed from a DVD mail order business to a dominant leader in streaming video. They have mastered the ability to provide almost any digital programming directly to smartphones, tablets, and TVs. What Netflix is not yet known for is the age-old practice many companies have come to rely on, known as “regulate my competitor,” or what economists call “rent-seeking.”

By hijacking the debate over network neutrality and conflating it with a regulatory arbitrage scheme to pad its bottom line, Netflix is putting its interest above all Internet users. The network neutrality debate has always been about treating all content on the Internet the same – no blocking or impeding traffic. Now, Netflix is trying to convince the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to adopt a new proposal that would change the current bipartisan “light-touch” regulatory structure of today. Netflix and now President Obama want to “reclassify” broadband networks under 1930s rotary telephone laws that would make ISPs public utilities under the guise of no blocking or prioritization. However, making ISPs into utilities still won’t prevent prioritization, further revealing the “regulate my competitor” strategy Netflix has embarked on with other advocacy groups.

The Communications Workers of America recently noted that investment by the 11 largest publicly traded broadband companies rose from $56.5 billion in 2010 to $70.1 billion in 2013 while investment by content companies only rose from $9 billion to $13.2 billion in the same time frame. Clearly, the investments made by ISPs to expand Internet service dwarfs that of the content companies. ISP investments translate directly into good, U.S.-based union jobs, a situation not matched by the largely non-unionized global content companies.

It’s also important to remember that Silicon Valley’s giants rely on the investment that creates the robustness of these networks for their success. Public utility regulations will only dry up investment in networks – ultimately hurting the innovators the President and advocates claim to protect.

Analysts have noted that Netflix generates about 1/3 of all Internet traffic at peak times in the US. Traffic is so high it puts significant strain on the ISPs’ networks. To alleviate this strain, ISPs, for years, have made arrangements to connect directly with content companies in order to keep the Internet free from this congestion. These arrangements are a win for content companies, ISPs and consumers.

But these types of traffic routing arrangements, called “paid interconnection,” are not good enough for Netflix’s profit motives. Instead, by using the neutrality debate to try to force ISPs to deliver Netflix traffic for free over ISPs’ networks, subsidizing the delivery of Netflix’s massive content bandwidth. This would ultimately force all Internet users to subsidize Netflix’s bandwidth needs.

Instead of urging the FCC to regulate its competitors as public utilities, Netflix should be doing what many other content companies like Amazon and Google have done – make interconnection arrangements with ISPs or invest in their own networks to bring content closer to the end customer. This strategy will create high paying jobs in California and avoid age-old tactics like “regulate my competitor.”

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

Eric Lindberg is Secretary-Treasurer Local 9423 and Next Generation Lead Activist for Communications Workers of America. Carlos Solórzano-Cuadra is CEO of the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce of San Francisco.

Study: E-cigarettes Probably Not A Gateway To Regular Smoking

As e-cigarettes spread like wildfire around the country, medical experts have expressed concern about whether e-cigarettes actually discourage users from moving on to cigarettes, but a new study finds that e-cigarettes are not a gateway to regular smoking.

E-cigarettes are growing rapidly among the high school population in the United States. Previous research has indicated that in just one year, e-cigarette usage by high school students doubled from 4.5 percent to 10 percent. Apart from e-cigarettes, hookah is also starting to take off in popularity, which is why researchers included it as a category in the new study.

With an explosion of tobacco products, researchers have found it difficult to determine causation. In other words, do emerging tobacco products (ETPs) like e-cigarettes and hookah encourage users to start smoking regular cigarettes, or do ETPs actually reduce overall rates of smoking?

“One of the biggest concerns about e-cigarettes is that they will serve as a gateway drug to lifelong nicotine dependence and all of the harms we know result from cigarette smoking,” said Michael Fiore, tobacco researcher from the Centers for Disease Control, according to Radio Iowa.

County after county has jumped into the regulatory fray to ban minors from accessing e-cigarettes, owing to health concerns and the fact that e-cigarettes have entered the market so quickly. Some experts are unsure aren’t yet sure what to think, although the general tone so far has been relatively optimistic. E-cigarettes have the potential to dramatically reduce conventional smoking rates.

Using a sample size of 1,304 students with an average age of 19.4 years at a public university in Oklahoma, researchers conducted an online survey to determine what tobacco products student had tried before and how frequently they used them.

To start, 79.5 percent of the sample was composed of non-users, which were mostly white and female. And 49 percent of all students reported that they had tried a tobacco product at least once. Another 20 percent either daily or occasionally consume tobacco products.

The main finding? Youths who first used hookah or e-cigarettes are less likely to become frequent smokers of regular cigarettes, compared to those who first tried conventional cigarettes. The students who first tried conventional cigarettes were three more times likely to become poly tobacco users than those who first tried e-cigarettes. Poly users are those who use three or more tobacco products.

Out of the sample, only one student who first started with an ETP ended up becoming a daily user of tobacco products. In contrast, 10 percent of users who first started with conventional cigarettes now smoke daily.

“Though this finding should be interpreted with caution, it potentially indicates that current ETPs are not necessarily strong gateways to regular tobacco use,” the researchers noted.

However, the study does have some noteworthy limitations. The first is most important: the study is cross-sectional, meaning it did not track users over time. Second, the researchers relied on self-reported data instead of biochemical indicators of smoking. This means that while the research is promising, it by no means is conclusive.

“Despite these limitations, the present investigation helps to identify the gateway potential of various tobacco products in a rapidly expanding tobacco market,” the authors concluded.

Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

CA Bans Wildlife Hunting Contests

Wile E. Coyote is smirking.

Despite a robust and thriving population, coyotes have just received an unprecedented degree of legal protection from the Golden State. Bringing a longstanding rural tradition to an end, the California Fish and Game Commission cracked down on competitive hunting events, including those used to cull the animals.

Perhaps ironically, coyotes — and other “nongame species and fur-bearing animals” like bobcats and and beavers covered by the prize hunting ban — had a single, lone wolf to thank.

Animal conservation activists became aware that a particular wolf, known by the designation OR7 and nicknamed “Journey,” could have placed itself on a migratory collision course with a so-called “Coyote Drive.” The event, stretching across three days in California’s remote northeast county of Modoc, had already attracted the attention of protestors, as the San Francisco Chronicle observed.

Last year’s seventh annual drive drew fire from a score of conservation groups. In the contest, pairs of hunters aimed to win by killing the most coyotes; ties went to whichever team bagged the most coyotes in the least time.

While event organizers presented the drive as a means of population control, Project Coyote and other organizations succeeded in pushing the federal Bureau of Land Management to prohibit the drive on terrain it controls.

That effective mobilizing effort prepared the way for a second round of activism targeting California law. Claiming the Coyote Drive was simply one aspect of a larger problem, Project Coyote once again teamed with environmentalists and wildlife activists, pressing state regulators to wipe out prize hunting at a single stroke.

Again, they succeeded. By a 4-1 vote, the state Fish and Game Commission outlawed hunting competitions of any kind. In a statement, commission head Michael Sutton proclaimed the hunts “an anachronism” with “no place in modern wildlife management.” (Conservationists had argued that the Coyote Drive actually increased the animals’ breeding, as a result of the effectively random way it reduced their numbers.)

Persistent incentives

Although cash prizes in the Coyote Drive ran as high as $500, ranchers and rural Californians said plenty of incentives remained for them to kill coyotes that threaten their livelihood. The Fish and Game Commission did not ban one-off killings, and big money of a different kind awaits those willing to train a gun on the often marauding animals.

As Fox News noted, the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed cattle ranchers in-state “lost more than $4 million in 2010 to predators, and coyotes accounted for the largest number of attacks.”

Buck Parks, president of a Modoc County fishing and hunting club, told Fox News ranchers would “encourage folks to get out and help manage these predators by hunting them,” even if no prize events could be held.

Tolerant

Until further notice, California will remain as tolerant toward informal coyote kills as other states, most of which have not imposed bag limits on individual hunters. Outlawing or reducing that activity would pose a much greater challenge to activists, for whom the case for a ban would hinge more on animal-rights claims than on conservation.

Nevertheless, the defeat of the Coyote Drive has shifted policy in California far away from what state regulations permit around the country. “Frenchville, Pennsylvania, saw 4,000 hunters sign up for its 22nd annual coyote hunt earlier this year,” reported National Public Radio’s Nathan Rott. “Florida has its Python Challenge, and Texas, its Big Nasty Hog Contest.”

But Camilla Fox, one of Project Coyote’s founders, told Rott she and her fellow activists saw California’s prize hunt ban as a model with nationwide applicability. Hinting at a broader approach to come, she conjectured that “just as we have, as a nation, banned cockfighting and dog fighting, I do think that we will see an end to wildlife-killing contests.”

This article was originally published at CalWatchdog.com

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality

Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

Another Shakedown ADA Lawsuit Against a CA Business Shows the Need for Reform

Just ask small businessman Jerry Brannon in Stockton.  He recently got sued by Scott Johnson for $38,000 for non-compliance with the Americans With Disability Act. However, instead of settling, Mr. Brannon has decided to fight. He plans to spend up to $50,000 fighting this lawsuit.

According to a television news report, “Scott Johnson has made legal claims against many business owners in the Sacramento area, claiming he’s suffered because his disability won’t allow him to fully access their stores and restaurants.”

Brannon said Johnson has “taken the ADA and made a business out of it.”

According to the news report, Johnson has been linked to thousands of lawsuits. 

I applaud Mr. Brannon on multiple fronts. This is not going to stop until the federal and state governments seriously pass legislation to stop these forms of lawsuit abuse. In 2008, the California State Legislature attempted to deal with the issue with SB 1608, which did not have the desired outcome. In 2012, the California State Legislature again attempted to find a way to stop the abuse with SB 1186 and this has also failed to stem the tide of abuse. The federal government has had a couple of bills related to ADA shakedowns lawsuits, but they have never been passed.

So here we are in 2014 and the lawsuits keep rolling. From Lake Tahoe to the Central Valley, we continue to see ADA lawsuits against small businesses, and there appears to be no end in sight. Interesting fact: there are more than 3.5 million small businesses in the state of California but only 500 Certified Access Specialists. How is every small business supposed to stay up to date when there aren’t enough access specialists?

When a business has to close due to an ADA shakedown lawsuit, no one benefits. Employees lose their jobs and governments lose revenue from employment property taxes. Who benefits from that scenario? Not even the disabled will benefit as everyone will simply have to travel further for those services.

I know there will be ADA legislation in California in the coming year and I am hopeful that with the changes in the U.S. Senate reform may be easier to pass in Washington. We, as a nation, need something to happen to help curb this abuse. It would behoove our legislators to find a reasonable compromise. A 120-day corrective action period at the state and federal level would stop these predators in their tracks. Let’s do it. Enough rearranging of deck chairs – let’s find a real solution.

Tom Scott is Executive Director, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

This piece was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

California is becoming ‘post-industrial hell,’ economist says

From California Watch:

Since the recession began, times have been tough in California – everybody knows it. The economy is in a protracted stall.

But it took economists at California Lutheran University’s Center for Economic Research and Forecasting to describe, in hyperbolic language, the depth of the problems that have beset the Golden State since the stock market started to tank in the summer of ’08.

“California,” writes center director Bill Watkins, “is fast becoming a post-industrial hell.”

That’s true “for almost everyone except the gentry class, their best servants and the public sector,” he writes.

(Read Full Article)