State Threatens Encinitas With Lawsuit Over Housing Policy

Encinitas housingGov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has put another coastal town on notice that it must meet state mandates to add a significant amount of units affordable by low-income families – reflecting the newly elected governor’s view that a lack of housing is one of California’s biggest problems.

In a Feb. 4 letter to the city of Encinitas, state housing official Zachary Olmstead said the city needed to ”amend or invalidate” a 2013 ordinance approved by voters that said developers had to get voters’ blessing if they wanted to increase the density of their projects or make zoning changes. The letter noted that this law and other city actions had the effect of blocking Encinitas from meeting state requirements that it add 1,141 affordable units. The city of 63,000 has few such units now.

While the Encinitas City Council once seemed as strongly anti-growth as the public, state threats under the Jerry Brown administration led the council in 2016 and 2018 to seek voters’ approval of what’s known as a Housing Element plan, failing both times. The plan is a formal document submitted to the state that outlines what projects will be built so that the city meets its commitment to “accommodate the housing needs of Californians of all economic levels.”

Like Huntington Beach, Encinitas could face lawsuit

Encinitas is the only city in San Diego County without a similar state-approved plan. It is among the richest cities in the country. As of the latest Zillow data, the median average home price is $1.05 million, and the latest RentCafe data puts the average monthly rent at $2,056.

While the 2013 city law targeted by the state has already been suspended until 2021 by a Superior Court judge as being pre-empted by state law, that wasn’t viewed as going far enough by state officials. Olmstead’s letter cited the cumulative effect of a “complex set of regulations” that make it impossible for new projects that would help the city comply with state requirements.

If Encinitas officials don’t change course, the letter warned that state grants might be withheld, including for transportation projects funded by the Legislature’s 2017 increase in state vehicle taxes – and that the Newsom administration would ask Attorney General Xavier Becerra to sue the city for defying state law.

In a case involving the same issues, the state and the city of Huntington Beach filed lawsuits against each other last month in Orange County over whether Huntington Beach is breaking state housing laws. Becerra says 2017 legislation passed in Sacramento clearly empowers his office to sue to enforce plainly written state mandates. Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates, however, says as a charter city – one with its own voter-approved de facto constitution – Huntington Beach has the authority to reject some state edicts that infringe on the city’s right to self-govern its “municipal affairs.”

Can charter cities claim exemption from mandates?

A League of California Cities primer on the rights of charter cities offers ammunition for Huntington Beach’s claim. It notes that with “some exceptions,” charter cities control land-use and zoning decisions. But a 1975 Loyola University of Los Angeles Law Review analysis cited by the league said ambiguous language in state law left it unclear precisely when charter city ordinances took precedent on land-use issues.

Encinitas is a general law city not eligible for charter city protections from some types of state interference. But if Encinitas officials proposed and city voters approved a charter city amendment in a special election, Encinitas could become a charter city within months.

Last year, after disputes with the state, officials in Menlo Park in Silicon Valley considered a quick push for charter city status before putting the issue on hold for the time being.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Taxpayers Give Thanks But Worry About the Future

taxesIn this season of Thanksgiving, taxpayers in California have reason to pause when asked for what they are thankful. Considering the costly plans of the newly elected Legislature and governor, taxpayers may be most grateful for the fact that the state hasn’t yet built a wall encircling the state to keep them from leaving.

After 2017, when lawmakers enacted new taxes including a $5.2 billion annual tax hike on gasoline, diesel and vehicle registration, as well as a new tax on recorded documents, 2018 saw every effort by the Legislature to increase taxes defeated by advocates for taxpayers.

We are grateful that the first-ever tax on drinking water was defeated.

We are grateful that the tax on fireworks was defeated, and that the effort to revive the “snack tax” was not successful.

We are grateful that the proposal to put a sales tax on services was shelved.

We are grateful that nearly a million voters signed petitions to repeal the gas and car tax. Of course, the bad news is that the gas tax repeal was given a new title by Attorney General Xavier Becerra that removed the words “gas tax repeal” from the ballot, deceiving voters.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Rejection of Proposition 6 Doesn’t End the Taxpayer Revolt

Gas PricesIt is understandable that many California taxpayers are disappointed with the election results. The defeat of Proposition 6 means that last year’s big increases in both the car tax and the gas tax imposed on us by Sacramento politicians will remain in effect and California’s drivers are stuck having the second-highest gas tax in the nation.

Tax-and-spend progressives are interpreting the defeat of Prop. 6 as a green light to impose even higher taxes. In fact, some now believe that the iconic Proposition 13 itself may be vulnerable. But this thinking is faulty.

There are three major reasons why Proposition 6 failed and none of them are because voters were enamored with the Senate Bill 1 tax hike last year. First, the ballot label – which may have been the only thing low-information voters saw – made no reference to the tax hike passed by the legislature last year. Rather, it ominously stated that the initiative would “eliminate certain transportation funding.” This non-specific description ignores that, had Prop. 6 passed, California would still have the fifth-highest gas tax in the nation. In providing a blatantly misleading ballot title, Attorney General Xavier Becerra did the opponents a huge favor.

Second, the financial power of the “rent seekers” — those interests which secure financial advantage through higher taxes on the general public – was on full display during this campaign. Big business, including large construction companies, teamed with big labor to contribute well over $50 million in campaign funds. A one-time $50 million investment for $5 billion in tax proceeds every year is a heck of a good return on investment. Moreover, this amount of money dwarfed the approximately $5 million raised by the proponents. With that kind of spending disparity, the disinformation spewed out by the opponents could not be challenged effectively, particularly in major media markets.

Third, opponents engaged in repeated acts of questionable and even illegal behavior. Beyond just the over-the-top threats of collapsing bridges if Prop. 6 passed, there was the well-publicized use of Caltrans-supervised work crews to stop traffic and hand out campaign fliers urging a no vote on Proposition 6. And the full integration of Caltrans management with opposition campaign operatives was an example of real, not fake, collusion. While legal actions are pending on this kind of activity, it is of little solace to California drivers who are being punished every time they pull up to the pump or write a check to the DMV. …

To read the entire column, please click here.

California’s War Against Trump Costs the State Millions

xavier-becerraThe ongoing war between California state officials and the Trump administration is costing the state’s taxpayers millions of dollars, data from the California Department of Justice indicates.

Since President Trump took office in January 2017, California has filed 44 lawsuits against the administration, while the federal government has filed three against California. For the 2017-18 fiscal year, the state’s tab for legal fees has been more than $9 million – up from nearly $3 million the previous year, the Sacramento Bee reported.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, has downplayed the costs involved in the California vs. Trump war, pointing out that it amounts to less than 1 percent of the state Department of Justice’s $894 million annual budget. He said the costs were a small price to pay to fight federal overreach.

“When you put into perspective that less than one percent of our budget is going to defend our people, our values and our resources, I think most people would say ‘Don’t stop,’” Becerra said. “[A]ny one of those items … would dwarf what we’d have to spend for all the litigation efforts that we’ve undertaken to defend the state of California against the federal government’s intrusion. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

Court reinstates California law allowing terminally ill people to end their lives

assisted suicideA state appeals court has reinstated – at least for now – California’s law allowing terminally ill people to end their lives. The Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside issued an immediate stay Friday putting the End of Life Option back into effect. The court also gave opponents of its decision until July 2 to file objections.

The law allows adults to obtain a prescription for life-ending drugs if a doctor has determined that they have six months or less to live.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia declared the law unconstitutional last month, stating that it had been adopted illegally because lawmakers passed it during a special Legislative session called to address other matters. Ottolia didn’t address the issue of whether it’s proper for people to end their lives.

Right-to-die advocates hailed Friday’s action.

“This stay is a huge win for many terminally ill Californians with six months or less to live because it could take years for the courts to resolve this case,” Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices, said in a statement.

“Thankfully, this ruling settles the issue for the time being, but we know we have a long fight ahead before we prevail.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who had asked the appeals court to stay Ottolia’s ruling, also praised the decision. …

Click here to read the full article from CBS News

Terminally ill in California waiting to die, but this court won’t let them

assisted suicideDozens of terminally ill patients in California who counted on using the state’s medical aid-in-dying law may be in limbo for a month after a court ruling that suspended the 2016 measure.

A judge who ruled in May that the law was improperly enacted refused to vacate that decision at the request of advocates last week. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia set a hearing for June 29, however, to consider a separate motion by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to reverse the decision.

Opponents cheered what they hope will be the end of a law they’ve fought from the day it was passed. Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group that promotes aid-in-dying, filed a notice to appealal late Friday and asked Becerra to uphold the group’s legal opinion that their appeal would trigger a stay of Ottolia’s judgment. Such a stay would reinstate the law pending further court action. Becerra did not immediately respond to the group, or to requests for comment.

For an estimated 200 patients who had already started the process of hastening their deaths, the decision has sparked confusion and fear, said Kat West, Compassion & Choices’ national policy director. …

Click here to read the full article from NBC News

California bans travel to another state based on its ‘discriminatory’ LGBT adoption law

xavier-becerraAdd Oklahoma to the list of states to which California is banning state-funded and state-sponsored travel.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Friday that as a result of “discriminatory legislation” that became Oklahoma law last month, the western state will prohibit travel to its midwestern counterpart.

A 2017 California law requires that its attorney general keeps a list of states subject to a state travel ban because of “laws that authorize or require discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” Becerra’s office said in a statement.

“California taxpayers are taking a stand against bigotry and in support of those who would be harmed by this prejudiced policy,” he said.

Oklahoma becomes the ninth state subject to the state-funded ban. Travel to Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas had previously been prohibited due to the 2017 law. …

Click here to read the full article from USA Today

California Sues Trump Administration Over Census Citizenship Question

California quickly filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration after the Commerce Department announced that the 2020 census would ask people whether they were U.S. citizens.

The citizenship question, announced Monday night, will discourage people from responding to the census and will violate the Constitution’s mandate for “actual enumeration,” the state’s lawsuit argues, according to The Washington Post.

“The Census numbers provide the backbone for planning how our communities can grow and thrive in the coming decade,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “What the Trump administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is an unconstitutional attempt to discourage an accurate Census count.”

The census hasn’t included a question about citizenship since 1950. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the question would allow better enforcement of voting laws. …

Click here to read the full article from the Huffington Post

Another Supreme Court Loss for Becerra Looming – Abortion

The Supreme Court seems likely to strike down a California law that mainly regulates anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers.

Both conservative and liberal justices voiced skepticism Tuesday about the law that requires the centers to tell clients about the availability of contraception, abortion and pre-natal care, at little or no cost. Centers that are unlicensed also must post a sign that says so.

The centers say they are being singled out and forced to deliver a message with which they disagree. California says the law is needed to let poor women know all their options.

Similar laws also are being challenged in Hawaii and Illinois.

At different points in the arguments, liberal Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor said they were troubled by aspects of the California law.

Kagan said it seemed that the state had “gerrymandered” the law, a term usually used in the context of redistricting, to target the anti-abortion centers. Sotomayor said there was at least one instance dealing with unlicensed centers that seemed “burdensome and wrong.”

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press

Trump Sues California Over Three Laws Designed To Frustrate Immigration Enforcement

Jeff SessionsThe Trump administration sued California in a federal district court late Tuesday over its “sanctuary city” designation, arguing federal immigration law preempts three of the state’s laws.

The Department of Justice noted in a statement one of the three laws prohibits private employees from “voluntarily cooperating with immigration officials” and requires employers to give employees advance notice of a potential worksite enforcement inspection.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, named a defendant in the suit, said after the law became effective Jan. 1 that he would “prosecute those who violate [Assembly Bill 450] by voluntarily cooperating with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) efforts.” He later told employers that under the new law they can’t voluntarily grant ICE agents “physical access to nonpublic areas of the worksite or to employee records” without triggering legal penalties.

The second California law challenged bars state and local law enforcement officials from informing federal immigration agents of the release date of criminal aliens and prohibits state employees from transferring criminal aliens to federal custody, except in narrow circumstances. This one, Senate Bill 54, also became effective on Jan. 1.

The third bill, Assembly Bill 103 adopted June 27 of last year, authorized the California AG to inspect immigration detention facilities in the state to examine the “due process provided” immigration detainees, and “the circumstances around their apprehension and transfer to the facility.” This law also requires detention facilities to provide state officials access to confidential federal records.

The DOJ argues in its complaint the three laws — AB 450, SB 54, and AB 103 — conflict with federal immigration law and are thus invalid under the Supremacy Clause. With the complaint, the DOJ filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, seeking to pause enforcement of the California statutes until the lawsuit is played out in court. …

Click here to read the full article from The Federalist