California sues Trump to preserve Obamacare discounts

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Friday he is suing the Trump administration to block the president’s plan to end federal subsidies that are considered to be a critical component of Obamacare.

Becerra and attorneys general from 17 other states announced the lawsuit a day after the Trump administration declared that it would withhold cost-sharing subsidies that help low- and middle-income people pay for health care coverage under his predecessor’s signature law. Becerra called the order an attempt to “sabotage” Obamacare.

“Undermining the Affordable Care Act has been Donald Trump’s and many Republicans’ plans for a long time,” Becerra said. “It’s long past time that President Trump learned that he doesn’t get to just pick and choose which laws he’ll follow, and which bills he’ll pay.”

The head of the Covered California health exchange, Peter Lee, said Friday that Trump’s move could have “monumental” impact on premiums in the Golden State in 2019. …

Click here to read the full story from the Sacramento Bee

Travis Allen Declares Victory in Gas Tax Repeal Lawsuit

 

SACRAMENTO – Today, Assemblyman Travis Allen announced that Judge Timothy Frawley of the Sacramento Superior Court gave the final ruling in favor of Allen’s request to rewrite the title and summary for the Repeal of the Gas Tax ballot initiative in a “true and impartial” manner.

“This is a huge win for the people of California. It’s outrageous that the Attorney General intentionally tried to mislead California voters in an effort enforce Jerry Brown’s massive $52 billion gas tax,” said Assemblyman Travis Allen. “California voters will now see a new ballot title and statement that truly represents what this initiative will do — repeal Jerry Brown’s massively unpopular gas tax.”

Ballot title and summary as written by Judge Frawley:

Travis Allen lawsuit 1

“We are ready to hit the ground running,” stated Assemblyman Travis Allen. “With this new ballot title and summary, the Repeal the Gas Tax Initiative will be ready to begin collecting the 365,880 signatures needed to place the repeal on the November 2018 ballot.  Californians can learn more about the effort by visiting www.NoCAGasTax.com,” concluded Allen.

Important excerpts from Judge Frawley’s final ruling:

Travis Allen lawsuit 2

 

Judge Frawley continued:

Further, as discussed above, while taxes and fees may be “income” to the state, they do not represent “income” to voters. An ordinary, reasonable voter is not likely to understand that.

The Attorney General’s summary does not “cure” the defects in the title. Rather, the misleading nature of the title “taints” the summary. Voters should not be put to the tast of trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially when it is so unnecessary.

Enterprise Counsel Group ALC (ECG) is representing Assemblyman Allen. ECG is a business litigation, appeals and transactional firm in Irvine, CA that serves clients across the country.  ECG has extensive experience in successfully representing officeholders and candidates in election contests in local, state, and federal offices.  For further information, please contact Benjamin P. Pugh or Garrett M. Fahy at (949) 833-8550.

***You can read Assemblyman Allen’s op-ed in the Sacramento Bee on the issue here.

***Attached is the final ruling.

For more information, official initiative signature packets, and updates on the Gas Tax Repeal, please visit www.NoCAGasTax.com

Gas tax opponents say California is trying to undermine them

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Opponents of a gas tax increase passed this spring to pay for road repairs in California are on the verge of their first victory in a campaign to repeal the measure.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge tentatively ruled this week that state Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a misleading title and summary for an initiative to reverse the tax hike that Assemblyman Travis Allen is trying to qualify for the November 2018 ballot.

“The court agrees with Petitioner that the Attorney General’s title and summary is confusing, misleading, and likely to create prejudice against the proposed measure,” Judge Timothy M. Frawley wrote. “The problem with the Attorney General’s title and summary is that an ordinary, reasonable elector, who is otherwise unfamiliar with the initiative, would not be able to discern what the initiative would do.”

Allen, a Huntington Beach Republican, launched his repeal effort in May, a month after lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1. The $5.2 billion annual package, pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown and other Democratic leaders, raises the per-gallon tax on transportation fuels and creates a new vehicle registration fee to pay for road maintenance, public transit and other projects. …

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California attorney general failing to create fair and objective initiative titles and summaries

xavier-becerraThe attorney general of California has the responsibility of preparing the “title and summary” for ballot measures to be submitted to the voters. Pursuant to that authority, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued the title and summary for one of the most anticipated ballot initiatives for the 2018 election. Here is his description: “Eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes.”

Confused? Try this excerpt from the ballot summary: “Eliminates Independent Office of Audits and Investigations, which is responsible for ensuring accountability in the use of revenue for transportation projects.”

If you have no clue that this is actually the initiative to repeal the gas tax you wouldn’t be alone. As drafted, the title and summary make every effort to hide the fact that the measure is targeting one of the most unpopular laws in recent California history. Though the words “gas” and “tax” are not in the ballot title, they do at least appear in the ballot summary. But they are followed by the suggestion that the initiative also acts to eliminate the Independent Office of Audits and Investigations — an office that does not yet exist.

This obvious effort at obfuscation, and ultimately voter confusion, flies in the face of a promise Becerra made during his confirmation hearing. Asked last January what he would do to ensure the objectivity of ballot titles and summaries, which is the constitutional responsibility of the attorney general to produce, Becerra testified that “the words I get to issue on behalf of the people of this state, will be the words that are operative to everyone.”

Becerra’s readiness, just months later, to depart from this approach in order to protect the gas tax — which was championed by his own party — is just the latest example of how attorneys general use their influence over the ballot to manipulate voters and advance the interests of their allies. To put an end to this damaging practice, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3, by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, was introduced earlier this year, a measure that would strip the attorney general of the power to write ballot titles and summaries, and transfer that authority over to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Unlike the attorney general, the Legislative Analyst is not a politician. A trusted source of impartial information since its creation in 1941, the LAO’s primary mission is to provide the state Legislature with reports on fiscal and policy issues. The office is also tasked with preparing the fiscal analysis for ballot initiatives, making it well suited for the responsibility of writing titles and summaries, too.

Since the introduction of ACA3, the Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register have all endorsed the measure, arguing that, no matter the party in power, the temptation to manipulate a ballot initiative’s language is too great for an attorney general to resist.

Their concerns are supported by a long history of abuse that stretches back to at least 1966, when Attorney General Tom Lynch, tasked with describing the initiative to create a full-time Legislature, at first misleadingly framed it as a measure to raise legislative salaries. More recently, in 2013, Attorney General Kamala Harris drew criticism for describing public pension reform as the “elimination” of state constitutional protections for pensioners, using language that had been poll-tested by opponents of the initiative. Other examples abound, from both sides of the aisle.

The high stakes of the initiative process make any attempt at reform difficult, particularly when the party controlling the Legislature also holds the Attorney General’s Office. When ACA3 was brought before the Assembly Elections Committee earlier this year, the bill had the support of every major good government group in the state, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of California. The only opposition was a representative from the Attorney General’s Office. Nevertheless, the bill failed 2-4 on a party-line vote, with one Democrat abstaining.

Initiatives are powerful tools of direct democracy, allowing the people of California to take direct control over the state’s political destiny when the Legislature has failed. But this is only possible when voters have an accurate description of what they are voting for. ACA3 would assure just that, and when it returns for consideration next year, we urge legislators on both sides to support this measure to redeem direct democracy in California.

Jon Coupal is the president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Kevin Kiley represents California’s 6th Assembly District, which includes parts of El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties. You can follow both on Twitter @joncoupal and @KevinKileyCA.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register. 

California sues Trump over DACA

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday formally challenged the Trump administration’s directive to rescind a program protecting unauthorized young immigrants from deportation.

Becerra, joining the states of Minnesota, Maryland and Maine, announced the lawsuit flanked by two “dreamers,” young women who were brought to United States illegally but were allowed to stay here, study and hold jobs after applying for the now-imperiled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“They should not be punished for things that were done by others,” Becerra said of the DACA recipients. “We don’t bait and switch in this country.”

Becerra said his lawsuit, which he previewed last week and planned to file Monday in the Northern District of California, was meant to “immediately address the president’s unlawful and mean spirited actions” by alleging his administration violated the due process protections of DACA applicants by putting their personal information at risk. …

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California Attorney General Claims Rescinding DACA is Unconstitutional

xavier-becerraPresident Donald Trump argued Tuesday that his predecessor’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program “is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.”

But California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has vowed to lead the so-called “Resistance” to Trump, argued the opposite, claiming that the president’s decision to rescind DACA Tuesday was unconstitutional — though he did not explain why.

“We believe the Trump administration has violated the Constitution, federal law, and certainly we believe wholeheartedly the Trump administration has ignored the American people,” Becerra said, according to the Fresno Bee.

He threatened to sue the administration over rescinding DACA, echoing comments by New York’s governor and attorney general — though none of them explained clearly what part of the Constitution Trump had violated.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that New York State had a “sovereign interest” in “the fair and equal application of the law,” though the distinction between legal and illegal residents is one with a clear basis in law.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — a vociferous critic of Trump who is reportedly working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in investigating him — referenced the Statue of Liberty, rather than the law.

Ironically, Becerra’s opinion of the constitutionality of Trump’s DACA decision was not shared by liberal Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). California’s senior U.S. Senator admitted to left-leaning MSNBC on Tuesday that DACA was “on shaky legal ground.” She referred to a legal threat from ten states’ attorneys general, on the basis of the fact that DACA had usurped Congress’s legislative power. She added: “That’s why we need to pass a law.”

Liberal legal scholar Jonathan Turley of George Washington University agreed, publishingan op-ed Tuesday in The Hill in which he accused Democrats of being “constitutional short sellers” who had allowed Obama to violate the Constitution’s separation of powers, then cited the Constitution when Trump lawfully rescinded Obama’s policies.

Thousands of demonstrators marched in cities across California Tuesday to protest Trump’s DACA decision.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Judge allows lawsuit on life-ending drugs for terminally ill

As reported by the Associated Press:

A judge on Friday allowed a legal challenge to proceed against California’s law letting terminally ill patients seek prescriptions for life-ending drugs.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia ruled that a group of doctors had provided sufficient information for a lawsuit over the 2016 law allowing medically-assisted death.

California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra had argued that the suit should be dismissed because doctors aren’t bound to issue these prescriptions and the law merely offers patients a choice. But Ottolia found that the plaintiffs had alleged enough information to argue that the law violates the state’s constitution by treating terminally ill people distinctly from others contemplating taking their lives.

“This is a violation of both the equal protection and due process clause of the constitution,” plaintiffs’ attorney Stephen Larson told reporters after the ruling.

California is one of a number of states where terminally ill patients can get prescriptions to take life-ending drugs, along with Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana. …

Click here to read the full article

What Exactly is the “Rule of Law”?

court gavelPart of the difficulty in finding common ground on the immigration debate in California is a different understanding of a basic governmental concept: the “rule of law.”

California officials have readily used the phrase when it comes to resisting the Trump Administration’s immigration policy.

Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, admonished the administration for stalking courthouses looking for people in the country illegally when she told the state legislature in her annual speech on the courts, “I submit to you today that the rule of law is being challenged.”

California’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, in responding positively to a federal court’s injunction halting Trump’s executive order against sanctuary cities, declared, “This injunction is consistent with the rule of law.”

Yet, those opposed to sanctuary cities and California’s effort to become a sanctuary state ask that if people came into the country against the laws on the books, is not that a violation of the “rule of law”?

Some have even compared the efforts to ignore federal immigration laws to the nullification efforts future Confederate states used to challenge federal authority prior to the Civil War.

Differing views on what constitutes the rule of law intensifies the country’s political divide. Ultimately, the United States Supreme Court will determine the law.

Cases before that court on the issue of state sovereignty have occurred in the past, of course. One case cited that may influence the outcome of a new Supreme Court test is Printz vs. United States.

This 1997 case, dealing with the Brady Gun Law, said the state could not compel local officials to execute federal law. The 5 to 4 majority declared that the Tenth Amendment to the constitution allowed the state to ignore a federal mandate, in this case requiring local law enforcement to enforce certain gun laws, because the constitution did not address the specific issue covered by the law.

Interestingly, the court majority, lead by Justice Antonin Scalia, were the conservative jurists on the court. Liberals may now use this decision to argue the Tenth Amendment allows states to declare sanctuary despite federal immigration laws because the sanctuary issue is not in the Constitution.

However, the Printz decision may not cleanly cover the issue of sanctuary cities. The majority opinion in Printz argued that the Framers of the Constitution allowed for federal regulation of international and interstate matters but reserved internal matters for the judgment of state legislatures. It may be argued that border security between nations is an international matter.

Cities can choose to not enforce federal immigration law, but they cannot stop the federal government from enforcing it. This is where the denial of federal funds to sanctuary cities comes into play and will ultimately be tested in court.

Despite the legal battle, it seems a basic understanding of what is meant by “the rule of law” is in order for the on-going immigration debate.

The American Bar Association attempted to frame a discussion of “the rule of law” in a three-page document.

The Bar Association dialogue started with questions:

“The rule of law is a term that is often used but difficult to define. A frequently heard saying is that the rule of law means the government of law, not men. But what is meant by “a government of law, not men”? Aren’t laws made by men and women in their roles as legislators? Don’t men and women enforce the law as police officers or interpret the law as judges? And don’t all of us choose to follow, or not to follow, the law as we go about our daily lives? How does the rule of law exist independently from the people who make it, interpret it, and live it?”

The site contains differing views from two civil rights historical figures.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an American suffragist, social activist, abolitionist, and leader of the early women’s rights movement, is quoted: “It is very important in a republic, that the people should respect the laws, for if we throw them to the winds, what becomes of civil government?”

But one can respect laws and still resist, The Rev. Martin Luther King wrote in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail. “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

The Bar Association comments, “The rule of law is intended to promote stability, but a society that operates under the rule of law must also remain vigilant to ensure the rule of law also serves the interests of justice.”

Strict adherence to laws on the books in relation to a concept of true justice reflects the current debate over immigration issues in this state. Yet, perception by the public of how laws are enforced is as an important part of this debate as is a finally sliced Supreme Court decision on the law. The public’s understanding of the “rule of law” is the tie that keeps in place the foundation of a civil society. So, it is incumbent on all sides of this debate to make clear what is meant in arguing for the “rule of law.”

Joel Fox is editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily.

5 ways Donald Trump could block legal marijuana in California

Buds are removed from a container at the "Oregon's Finest" medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Oregon April 8, 2014. Over 20 Oregon cities and counties are moving to temporarily ban medical marijuana dispensaries ahead of a May deadline, reflecting a divide between liberal Portland and more conservative rural areas wary about allowing medical weed. Portland, Oregon's largest city, already has a number of medical marijuana clinics and has not moved to ban them. Picture taken April 8, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES - Tags: DRUGS SOCIETY POLITICS HEALTH) - RTR3KMHE

The Trump administration has made clear that it will not look the other way when it comes to de facto state legalization of marijuana, as the Obama administration did. Instead, White House press secretary Sean Spicer last week said the states that have approved the use of recreational pot – California is one of eight – would face a reckoning because marijuana use remains a federal crime under the Controlled Substances Act.

State Democrats immediately denounced the possibility of a federal crackdown and took a defiant tone, starting with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a key sponsor of Proposition 64, the ballot measure approved with 56 percent support in November that sets up the framework for legal pot sales and use beginning Jan. 1, 2018. Newsom released a letter that called Spicer “grossly uninformed” for saying legal pot could make the opioid epidemic worse and warned that a federal intervention would help “drug cartels and criminals” by keeping the sale of marijuana a black-market, illegal practice.

Xavier Becerra, recently installed as state attorney general, also vowed in a statement that he would “protect the interests of California” from federal intrusion.

A Los Angeles Times report quoted attorneys as saying California could argue that it has a legal right to control drug rules within its borders.

Constitution gives federal government final say

But legal websites and U.S. history suggest that a federal government that is determined to enforce federal laws would be a very difficult obstacle for a state to overcome.

“The Supremacy Clause is a clause within Article VI of the U.S. Constitution which dictates that federal law is the ‘supreme law of the land,’” the FindLaw website notes. “This means that judges in every state must follow the Constitution, laws and treatises of the federal government in matters which are directly or indirectly within the government’s control. Under the doctrine of preemption, which is based on the Supremacy Clause, federal law preempts state law, even when the laws conflict.”

A federal crackdown could come in several forms:

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration agents could stage raids on pot farms and dispensaries, as they did memorably in 2012 at Oakland’s massive Oaksterdam medical pot outlet. U.S. marshals and IRS agents joined in the raid.
  2. Federal authorities could warn property owners that their land and buildings would be seized unless they evict pot farmers or dispensaries.
  3. The federal government can compel cooperation through a lawsuit. An Associated Press analysis noted that this is what happened in 2010, when a federal suit forced Arizona to scrap an immigration law that the Justice Department said trampled on federal authority.
  4. The federal courts can also compel action, such as what happened last year in Kentucky, when a county clerk who objected to issuing licenses for same-sex marriage was overruled.
  5. The Treasury, Justice and Homeland Security Departments can all use existing laws to hammer banks and credit unions that accept deposits that can be linked in any way to marijuana-generated funds or if they provide any services to dispensaries. “Financial institutions face significant risk for violating federal law if they offer banking services to marijuana-related businesses,” an American Bankers Association web page warns. “The federal statutory barriers include the Controlled Substance Act, USA Patriot Act, Bank Secrecy Act, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and other federal statutes.” The RICO law in particular gives law enforcement wide latitude to classify activities that may seem in a gray area as illegal, which is why it’s long been a target of advocates of legal reform.

These five ways the Trump administration could crack down on a state attempting to legalize recreational drug use are only the short list. In an era in which sweeping executive orders have become the norm, Attorney General Jeff Sessions – an ardent foe of legal pot – could ask President Trump to withhold federal funds for law enforcement or health programs from defiant states.

While Spicer was emphatic about a new federal approach to state marijuana laws, he offered no timetables for action. Sessions has so far focused on other issues in his first weeks at the Justice Department.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

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