Legislature Not Finished With Push for Mandatory Vaccinations

vaccine2When it comes to toughening state vaccination laws, the Legislature’s not done yet. A measure that would require child-care workers to be vaccinated for three common childhood diseases has passed a key vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. KQED News has the details:

It was the last committee stop for the bill, which passed the Senate and now will be up for an Assembly floor vote.

SB792, by Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, would require vaccination for whooping cough, measles and influenza for all day care workers.

The only exemption for a whooping cough or measles immunization would be a physician’s note that exempts individuals for whom the vaccination would not be safe.

Day care workers who do not want to get the influenza vaccine, though, just need to fill out a form to become exempt from the requirement.

The bill also reiterated the need for evidence of being free of tuberculosis — known as “clearance” —  among day care workers, which already is required by law.

No crowds of protesters for this legislation

But unlike with legislation mandating that students get vaccinations before being allowed in school — a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that ended nearly all exemptions and was criticized by, among others, the Washington Post editorial board — this bill is generating little controversy and enjoys bipartisan support. It was lobbied for by the Health Officers Association of California, the Child Care Law Center, the March of Dimes California chapter, and other groups that promote children’s interests, and faced criticism only from those who consider vaccinations dangerous.

Republicans who objected to the school vaccination bill as an attack on parental rights have accepted Mendoza’s argument that this is a common-sense measure to protect children and a reasonable job requirement for someone who works with young kids.

The measure passed the Senate on a 34-3 vote in May.

Before passing the Assembly Appropriations Committee on a 16-1 vote Wednesday, it won approval on a 6-1 vote in the Assembly Human Services Committee and on a 16-1 vote in the Assembly Health Committee.

If the bill is adopted by the full Assembly and signed by the governor, it will take effect Sept. 1, 2016.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CA Epicenter of National ‘Anchor Baby’ Debate

Anchor BabyRepublican presidential candidates were drawn deeper into the immigration controversies centered on California, as Donald Trump’s leading opponents sought a way to blunt his apparent advantage among voters with his tough talk on birthright citizenship and deportation.

The numbers game

Clarifying his stance, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski recently took to CNN to criticize the current population of so-called anchor babies.

“If you think of the term ‘anchor baby,’ which is those individuals coming to our country and having their children so their children can be U.S. citizens,” he said. “There’s 400,000 of those taking place on a yearly basis. To put this in perspective, that’s equivalent of the population of Tulsa, Okla.”

Those numbers were immediately disputed, but not entirely discounted. According to Politfact, the figure cited by Lewandowski was “slightly exaggerated,” taking into account dipping rates of illegal immigration in recent years, and the difficulty involved in proving intent among unlawful immigrant mothers giving birth on U.S. soil.

So-called birth tourists, who use travel visas with the secret intent to have a baby delivered in the U.S., contribute to a much smaller fraction of ‘anchor babies,’ Politifact added — “around 8,600, or 0.2 percent of all births, in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

A growing problem

Nevertheless, the anchor baby story has gained steam this summer, reaching a broader audience than GOP primary voters. In a significant new report at Rolling Stone, Benjamin Carlson investigated Rowland Heights, a Los Angeles-area community with a reputation as “the center of Chinese birth tourism in southern California, if not the whole United States.” 

Several years ago, Carlson noted, “the county of Los Angeles opened an investigation into maternity hotels after receiving a deluge of public complaints,” although in the end “no new ordinance targeting maternity hotels was passed in the area. The task force decided that ‘complaints beyond the scope of local zoning powers’ would be referred to state and federal agencies.” According to estimates cited by Carlson, California has become the epicenter for many of the 10,000-60,000 Chinese tourist births the U.S. hosts per year. 

Campaign controversy

With the anchor baby story gaining national traction, several of Trump’s leading competitors for the Republican nomination appeared to size up the issue as a way to toughen up on immigration without undermining their credibility with pro-immigration constituents. Asked by Bill O’Reilly whether “the anchor baby law” is “destructive to the country,” Marco Rubiocalled the issue a “legitimate” one, as RealClearPolitics recounted. “I of course have read about how that happens in California, wealthy Chinese people are hedging their bets, in case something goes wrong in China they can come here,” he explained. 

Jeb Bush, meanwhile, allowed the term — seen by many Democrats and others as at least implicitly derogatory — to escape his lips in an interview. “Given Bush’s close connections to the Latino community — his wife is from Mexico, he speaks fluent Spanish, he’s written a book on immigration and he lives in the Miami area — it was surprising to hear Bush use the phrase,” CNN suggested. “But he defended his word choice, telling reporters the following day that he didn’t regret it.”

“‘What I said is that it’s commonly referred to that. I didn’t use it as my own language,’ he said. ‘You want to get to the policy for a second? I think that people born in this country ought to be American citizens.’”

Later, Bush attempted to clarify that his concern was closer to Rubio’s than Trump’s. “Frankly it’s more Asian people,” he suggested, urging critics to “chill out” about his phrasing, according to NBC News.

Choosing agendas

Conservatives have grappled over whether to frame birthright citizenship primarily as a question of immigrants’ potential upward mobility or the potential downward mobility they often believe government dependency fosters. “Inflation-adjusted figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected that a child born in 2013 would cost his parents $304,480 from birth to his eighteenth birthday,” as National Review’s Ian Tuttle noted. “Given that illegal-alien households are normally low-income households (three out of five illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children live at or near the poverty line), one would expect that a significant portion of that cost will fall on the government.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Could Fiorina, Brown or Condi Make It on the Presidential Ticket?

Republican presidential candidate businesswoman Carly Fiorina stands on stage for a pre-debate forum at the Quicken Loans Arena, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015,  in Cleveland. Seven of the candidates have not qualified for the primetime debate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Only one Californian — actually a former Californian — is even given an outside chance of appearing on one of the major party presidential tickets. That would be Carly Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard who while a resident of this state lost a senate race to Barbara Boxer. Fiorina has since moved to the East Coast.

So it appears that no Californian will find a place on a major party ticket in 2016 — or maybe one could, but it would be even a longer shot.

We are still eleven months away from the Republican nominating convention in Cleveland and already pundits are having a field day with the ever-changing nature of the presidential campaign.

Forgive me for this wild speculation but I think it fits the tenor of the times when it comes to presidential punditry.

How might a Californian make a national ticket?

This past weekend, Governor Jerry Brown ruled himself out of the presidential race but said if he were Vice President Joe Biden he would seriously consider joining the race. What if Biden gets in and weakens front-runner Hillary Clinton? What if Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is able to make a strong enough showing to win some delegates? Could the Democrats enter the convention without a candidate securing the necessary delegate votes for the nomination?

Unlikely, but if this scenario plays out, Democrats would look for an alternative and I would venture a guess that Gov. Brown will be near the top of the list.

There is even a greater potential for a brokered nominating convention on the Republican side with so many candidates seeking the job. It is likely that the nominee would come from the announced candidates. The vice presidential nominee, however, could very well be someone not currently seeking the presidency.

A winning nominee, especially one who served as a state’s governor, may want a vice presidential candidate with experience in foreign affairs.

Former Secretary of State and current Stanford University professor Condoleezza Rice might make a nice fit. She always seemed averse to running a campaign but being tabbed to seek the high-profile station may be acceptable to her. She would add gravitas to a ticket—although there is little hope she could bring her home state along in the Electoral College count.

Will either of these scenarios play out? Don’t bet on it. But stranger things can and have happened in presidential campaigns. As evidence, just look at the goings on in the current race for the White House compared to predictions from just six months ago.

Legislators Duel Over Impending Gas Tax Hike

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedDemocratic legislators in the state Senate have brought Californians closer to new hikes on the cost of driving their cars. But the committee vote represented little more than a first step in a complex, intense negotiation between Republicans, Democrats and the man trying to stay influential but above the fray — Gov. Jerry Brown.

Republicans have resisted Democrats’ preferred approach, but California’s business lobby has pressed both parties to embrace new taxes and fees. “Last week, business organizations such as the California Chamber of Commerce and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group said any deal should seek to raise at least $6 billion annually by raising gas and diesel taxes and increasing vehicle registration and license fees,” the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Part of the rationale for increasing fees, instead of simply dialing up gas taxes, has centered around the growing popularity of hybrid and electric vehicles in California — and the state’s interest in squeezing revenue out of every car on the road. “We have these Teslas that are being sold and they don’t pay any gas tax,” complained state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, as CBS Sacramento noted.

Gas in California has remained higher on average than out-of-state, thanks to cap-and-trade fees and the state’s unique environmental rules about the blends of gasoline that must be sold. Current state taxes include an excise tax of 39 cents, between 30 and 42 cents in sales tax, and 10 cents for the cap-and-trade levy, as Watchdog Arena observed.

Brown stays secretive

At a recent news conference that left some observers hungry for detail scratching their heads, Brown refused to hint at a revenue source for the improvements. “I’m not going to say where the revenue’s going to come from, how we’re going to get it,” he said. “We’ll get it done, but I’m not going to put all my cards on the table this morning,” Brown said, according to ABC 7 News.

Brown was joined at the appearance by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, who signaled separately that negotiations would be tough. “It will be a bumpy road, but our constituents expect us to work together and figure something out,” she toldthe San Francisco Chronicle.

To date, the governor has not let slip whether he would support or oppose a tax hike to make up the difference.

Dueling proposals

That raised the possibility that Republicans might get their way, scrounging up revenue from savings and budgetary jujitsu instead of tax increases. But GOP legislators have been keen on siphoning revenue away from California’s cap-and-trade program, which Brown had availed himself of previously in order to fund construction spending on the state’s much-debated high-speed rail project. That has drawn strenuous objections from Sacramento Democrats.

The current proposal advanced by Assembly Republicans “would raise more than $6 billion a year by eliminating thousands of state employees and unfilled positions and reallocating existing state money, both from the budget and from other projects,” the Chronicle noted, while the plan pushed by Beall would raise billions with a suite of increased gas taxes and fees, including an “annual road access charge of $35 a vehicle,” according to the paper.

It was Beall’s bill that cleared its first committee test in the Senate this week, with Democrats besting Republicans in a party line vote.

For now, just a few broad outlines of an agreement have come into focus. According to the Chronicle, both sides reject the option of a “one-time fix, such as a bond measure that would pile more debt on the state. Any money raised must be earmarked only for road and infrastructure repair, and protected against being siphoned into other parts of the state budget.” Plus, legislators agreed that expenditures should be clearly identified and made public, with some kind of oversight and monitoring built into the arrangement.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Tom Steyer’s $1 Billion “Green-Jobs” Initiative is a Bust

prop. 39California’s initiative process has sometimes been a boon to taxpayers — think Proposition 13, which checked the uncontrolled growth of property taxes. On other occasions, however, it has yielded some mighty boondoggles. Chief among these are the “boutique initiatives” advanced by celebrities and Silicon Valley billionaires to make themselves feel good or to advance pet political causes — think Proposition 10, Hollywood director Rob Reiner’s early-childhood-development measure that created a host of busybody commissions funded by cigarette taxes.

Boutique initiatives usually come with boutique prices. Among the costliest is Proposition 39, a 2012 measure that hiked corporate taxes on out-of-state businesses to “create energy efficiency and clean energy jobs” and fund “green energy” projects. Prop. 39 was the brainchild of hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who happened to make a substantial chunk of his fortune from coal and other “dirty energy” investments. Steyer poured $29.6 million of his own money into the campaign. Opposition was negligible; even several large corporations that would face hefty tax increases, such as General Motors, backpedaled from their initial opposition. Sixty-one percent of California voters approved the measure.

Three years on, the results are in: Proposition 39 is a massive waste. An Associated Press investigation found that the state legislature spent half of Proposition 39’s tax revenues “to fund clean energy projects in schools, promising to generate more than 11,000 jobs each year. Instead, only 1,700 jobs have been created in three years.” Moreover, the initiative has fallen well short of the revenue the state Legislative Analyst’s Office projected it would generate. According to the AP, “Proponents told voters in 2012 that it would send up to $550 million annually to the Clean Jobs Energy Fund. But it brought in just $381 million in 2013, $279 million in 2014 and $313 million in 2015.”

Naturally, Steyer and his allies didn’t respond well to the AP’s revelations. State senate president pro tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, defended Proposition 39’s record in a joint statement with Steyer published Monday: “It’s irresponsible and more than a little misleading to prejudge a long-term, multi-year program this early in the process. We are disappointed that the Associated Press did not take time to present an objective or comprehensive analysis of what is still a developing program.” Would Steyer say the same about a three-year, private-sector investment that turned sour?

De Leon and Steyer have been super-glued together of late. As the Bakersfield Californian reported, “Steyer, a major donor to Democrats nationwide, is pouring money into the California Capitol, and de Leon is introducing bills that echo Steyer’s environmental agenda.” Steyer has appeared at hearings for de Leon’s Senate Bill 350, which would mandate a 50 percent cut in gasoline consumption in the Golden State by 2030. The only way to achieve that goal would be to increase prices substantially. Hardest hit by Proposition 39 and the scorched-earth environmentalism of SB 350 would be de Leon’s own constituents in East Los Angeles, one of the poorest areas in a state with the highest poverty rate in the nation. Working- and middle-class Californians with long commutes or who drive trucks for a living would suffer the consequences.

De Leon and Steyer’s protests notwithstanding, the AP investigation might spur some corrective action in Sacramento. “It’s clear to me that the legislature should immediately hold oversight hearings to get to the bottom of why yet another promise to the voters has been broken,” insisted Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of San Dimas. “We should hold some oversight hearings to see how the money is being spent,” said Fresno Democratic assemblyman Henry Perea, “where it is being spent and seeing if Prop. 39 is fulfilling the promise that it said it would.”

At least somebody is getting a nice piece of the action: of the $297 million already doled out to public schools, half went to consultants and auditors. Turns out that “green jobs” means more green for government contractors. Maybe voters will respond more wisely the next time Steyer tugs at their environmental heartstrings.

California: “Land of Opportunity” or “Land of Poverty”?

For decades, California’s housing costs have been racing ahead of incomes, as counties and local governments have imposed restrictive land-use regulations that drove up the price of land and dwellings. This has been documented by both Dartmouth economist William A Fischel and the state Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Middle income households have been forced to accept lower standards of living while less fortunate have been driven into poverty by the high cost of housing. Housing costs have risen in some markets compared to others that the federal government now publishes alternative poverty estimates (the Supplemental Poverty Measure), because the official poverty measure used for decades does not capture the resulting differentials. The latest figures, for 2013, show California’s housing cost adjusted poverty rate to be 23.4 percent, nearly half again as high as the national average of 15.9 percent.

Back in the years when the nation had a “California Dream,” it would have been inconceivable for things to have gotten so bad — particularly amidst what is widely hailed as a spectacular recovery. The 2013 data shows California to have the worst housing cost adjusted poverty rate among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. But it gets worse. California’s poverty rate is now more than 50 percent higher than Mississippi, which long has set the standard for extreme poverty in the United States (Figure 1).

cox1

The size of the geographic samples used to estimate the housing adjusted poverty rates are not sufficient for the Supplemental Poverty Measure to produce local, county level or metropolitan area estimates. However, a new similar measure makes that possible.

The California Poverty Measure                           

The Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality have collaborated to establish the “California Poverty Measure,” which is similar to the Supplemental Poverty Measure adjusted for housing costs.

The press release announcing release of the first edition (for 2011) said that: “California, often thought of as the land of plenty” in the words Center on Poverty and Inequality director Professor David Grusky, is “in fact the land of poverty.”

The latest California Poverty Measure estimate, for 2012, shows a statewide poverty rate of 21.8 percent, somewhat below the Supplemental Poverty Measure and well above the Official Poverty Measure that does not adjust for housing costs (16.5 percent).

The California Poverty Measure also provides data for most of California’s 58 counties, with some smaller counties combined due to statistical limitations. This makes it possible to estimate the California Poverty Measure for metropolitan areas, using American Community Survey data.

Metropolitan Area Estimates

By far the worst metropolitan area poverty rate was in Los Angeles, at 25.3 percent. The Los Angeles County poverty rate was the highest in the state at 26.1 percent, well above that of Orange County (22.4 percent), which constitutes the balance of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. However, the Orange County rate was higher than that of any other metropolitan area or region in the state (Figure 2). San Diego’s poverty rate was 21.7 percent. Perhaps surprisingly, Riverside-San Bernardcox2ino (the Inland Empire), which is generally perceived to have greater poverty, but with lower housing costs, had a rate of 20.9 percent. The two counties, Riverside and San Bernardino had lower poverty rates than all Southern California counties except for Ventura (Oxnard) and Imperial.

 

The San Francisco metropolitan area had a poverty rate of 19.4 percent, more than one-fifth below that of Los Angeles. San Jose has a somewhat lower poverty rated 18.3 percent (Note 1). The metropolitan areas making constituting the exurbs of the San Francisco Bay Area had a poverty rate of 18.7 percent. This includes Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Stockton and Vallejo. Sacramento had the lowest poverty rate of any major metropolitan area, at 18.2 percent.

The San Joaquin Valley, stretching from Bakersfield through Fresno to Modesto (Stockton is excluded because it is now a San Francisco Bay Area exurb) had a poverty rate of 21.3 percent, slightly below the state wide average of 21.8 percent. The balance of the state, not included in the metropolitan areas and regions described above had a poverty rate of 21.2 percent.

County Poverty Rates

As was noted above, Los Angeles County had the highest 2012 poverty rate in the state (Note 2), according to the California Poverty Measure (26.1 percent). Tulare County, in the San Joaquin Valley had the second-highest rate at 25.2 percent. Somewhat surprisingly, San Francisco County with its reputation for high income had the third worst poverty rate in the state at 23.4 percent. This is driven, at least in part, by San Francisco’s extraordinarily high median house price to household income ratio (median multiple). In this grisly statistic, it trails only Hong Kong, Vancouver and Sydney in the latest Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. Wealthy Santa Barbara County has the fourth worst poverty rate in the state, at 23.8 percent. The fifth highest poverty rate is in Stanislaus County, in the San Joaquin Valley (county seat Modesto), which is already receiving housing refugees from the San Francisco Bay Area, unable to pay the high prices (Figure 3).

cox3

The two lowest poverty rates were in suburban Sacramento counties (Note 2). Placer County’s rate was 13.2 percent and El Dorado County’s rate was 13.3 percent. Another surprise is Imperial County, which borders Mexico and has generally lower income. Nonetheless, Imperial County has the third lowest poverty rate at 13.4 percent. Shasta County (county seat Redding), located at the north end of the Sacramento Valley is ranked fourth at 14.8 percent. Two counties are tied for the fifth lowest poverty rate (16.0 percent), Marin County in suburban San Francisco and Napa County, in the exurban San Francisco Bay Area (Figure 4).

Weak Labor Market and Notoriously Expensive Housing

The original Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality press release cited California’s dismal poverty rate as resulting from “a weak labor market and California’s notoriously expensive housing.” These are problems that can be moderated starting at the top, with the Governor and legislature. The notoriously expensive housing could be addressed by loosening regulations that allow more supply to be built at lower cost. True, the new supply would not be built in Santa Monica or Palo Alto. But additional, lower cost housing on the periphery, whether in Riverside County, the High Desert exurbs of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, the San Francisco Bay Area exurbs or the San Joaquin Valley could begin to remedy tcox4he situation.

The improvement in housing affordability could help to strengthen the weak job market, by attracting both new business investment and households moving from other states.

Regrettably, Sacramento does not seem to be paying attention. Liberalizing land use regulations is not only absent from the public agenda, but restrictions are being strengthened (especially under the requirements of Senate Bill 375). In this environment, metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego could become even more grotesquely unaffordable, and the already high price to income ratios in the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley could worsen. All of this could lead to slower economic growth and to even greater poverty, as more lower-middle-income households fall into poverty.

Note 1: San Benito County is excluded from the San Jose metropolitan area data. The California Poverty Measure does not report a separate poverty rate for San Benito County.

Note 2: Among the counties for which specific poverty rates are provided.

isiting professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris

Cross-posted at New Geography.

Steyer’s Prop. 39 Promises Fall Flat

Tom SteyerA decade ago, former CBS News correspondent Bernard Goldberg authored a book titled “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America.” If Goldberg were writing today about Californians, he would no doubt include billionaire Tom Steyer near the top of the list.

Steyer achieved his extreme wealth as a hedge fund manager, an uber capitalist whose profitable investments have included oil, gas and coal.

In 2012, he separated from the management of  his company – he still owns shares – and committed to a “green” agenda. He became the leading sponsor and financial backer of Proposition 39 on the 2012 ballot, which was sold as pro-environmental reform measure virtually guaranteeing its passage by Californians understandably concerned about the environment. Proposition 39 increased taxes on businesses — those evil companies that provide so many Americans their jobs — and directed the money be put into something called The Clean Jobs Energy Fund. Steyer promised it would bring in $550 million and create 11,000 jobs per year. But a recent investigation by the Associated Press reveals that it has raised less than 60 percent of that amount over three years, and has created only 1,700 jobs mostly for consultants and auditors.

Steyer has shied away from taking responsibility for, or being critical of, these dismal results, even though one of his top advisors serves on the Proposition 39 oversight committee that, ironically, has yet to meet.

However, Steyer continues to insert himself and his views into the political arena. In 2014, he spent $57 million of his personal fortune in support of out-of-state candidates for the Senate and governor, most of whom lost. And there is talk of his being a candidate for governor in 2018.

When it comes to Steyer, voters may continue to have a bad taste in their mouths if the promises of Proposition 39 are not kept. He may come to be regarded as a guy with a huge ego who uses his money as a megaphone to promote ill-conceived plans on which he stamps a green label to gain public acceptance.

With the Sacramento politicians, led by the current governor, continuing to dedicate themselves to spending nearly 100 billion taxpayer dollars on a “green” bullet train that will be neither fast nor cheap, as promised, will they be ready to accept another politician with a pie-in-the-sky agenda, one who seems to have more money than sense?

Average Californians are tired of paying high taxes for little or no return. They are rapidly getting fed up with having to carry the burden for the dreams of limousine liberals who are concentrated in idyllic coastal enclaves where only the wealthy can buy homes. Those who can afford to insulate themselves from life’s rough edges should not ignore those who struggle to get to work, feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. If they do, they do so at their own peril.

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.

Originally published by HJTA.org

Stop sign cameras in mountain parks may take a hike

Stop sign photoThe Santa Monica Mountains are home to nearly 400 species of birds, more than 50 threatened or endangered plants and animals, and seven threatened or endangered photo-enforced stop signs.

State Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, wants to save the ticket-mailing stop signs from extinction, but Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, has introduced a bill to kill them off. In January, Senate Bill 218 will return to the Senate Natural Resources Committee for a second time, after Pavley, chair of the committee, blocked it in May.

“I find it promising that some of my colleagues believe, as I do, that no matter how noble the goal, the MRCA needs to better justify its stop sign camera enforcement program,” Huff said.

MRCA is the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. It was formed in 1985 when the Conejo Recreation and Park District and the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District joined with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to acquire, develop and conserve park and open-space lands. Today MRCA manages 72,000 acres of public lands from Ventura County to the San Gabriel Mountains.

MRCA’s noble goal is the safety of park visitors, whether they are hiking, dog-walking, bicycling, pushing a baby stroller or driving.

In pursuit of this goal, MRCA operates seven photo-enforced stop signs in its parks, which together generate $1.5 million annually in gross revenue. The automated system sends out about 25,000 tickets a year at $100 a pop, jumping to $500 for the third violation within 12 months.

The tickets are mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle as identified from a photo of the rear license plate. Appeals of violations are handled internally at MRCA and then can be taken to the Superior Court — about 50 percent of the tickets are tossed out. They are administrative citations, which don’t count against an individual’s driving record, but unpaid tickets are turned over to a collection agency.

It is disputed whether MRCA’s system, unique in California, is legal under the state’s vehicle code, and whether the placement of the signs is really motivated by safety concerns. Supervising ranger Jewel Johnson told the Senate committee the signs are thoughtfully placed to protect pedestrians and to slow down speeding commuters who use park roads as a shortcut.

But a recent visit to two of the parks calls that claim into question.

Near the entrance to Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park, located at the south end of Reseda Boulevard, a photo-enforced stop sign is placed at a mid-point in the road where there is no intersection. A crosswalk in front of the stop line leads to a hiking trail on one side, but it seems unnecessary to force every car to come to a complete stop on the road leading out of the park if no one is waiting to cross.

The Top of Topanga Overlook is a narrow walkway where visitors can see a wide view of the San Fernando Valley. The tiny park has 16 parking spaces, three picnic tables, a few benches, some deceased shrubs and a photo-enforced stop sign. It nails drivers as they exit the park in a right-turn-only lane that puts them on northbound Topanga Canyon Boulevard. The placement of the sign doesn’t protect pedestrians or slow traffic in the park. It’s just a stop sign at the end of a right-turn lane, and the fines for rolling through it go to MRCA.

The fines also go to Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., a Phoenix company that makes red light camera systems and speed enforcement cameras as well as the stop sign setups.

In June, former Redflex CEO Karen Finley pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges for giving money to officials in Columbus and Cincinnati in order to land contracts. And last year, Chicago ended its relationship with Redflex after a federal grand jury issued a 23-count indictment accusing the company of paying off city officials to get $124 million in public contracts.

Here in California, Redflex has spent $1.2 million lobbying the state Legislature since 2009.

Redflex is opposed to Sen. Huff’s bill, which would make photo-enforced stop signs illegal in the Santa Monica Mountains and everywhere else in the state.

“We all share a common love for our public parks and want people to have a safe and enjoyable experience while visiting them,” Huff said. “We shouldn’t be punishing people who are enjoying a day in the park with an arbitrary ticket.”

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High Gas and Egg Prices Caused By Liberal Policies Are Crushing California’s Poor

Photo courtesy of pietroizzo, flickr

Photo courtesy of pietroizzo, flickr

Eggs have long been understood to be an inexpensive yet highly nutritious food that helps stretch the family budget. But eggs aren’t so cheap in California anymore, and buying them is making poor people poorer in the state, thanks to liberal Democrats. In fact, California egg prices have soared 150% in the last year according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, up from $1.46 a dozen in May 2014 to $3.61 today. The Safeway in the Diamond Heights district of San Francisco is charging $5.99 a dozen now. This spike in egg prices is having the biggest negative affect on California’s lowest wage earners, who are seeing their already meager disposable incomes dwindle in the face of the state’s ever increasing cost of living, which is only being driven higher and higher by the policies enacted by liberal Democrats who control the state. Egg prices have been driven up, in no small part, by the enactment of Proposition 2, which was promoted by liberal elites and now requires all eggs in California be produced only at farms where the chickens can move around freely. California’s law requires that farms ensure hens have almost twice the space required for sale in the country’s other 49 states, and the result is fewer farms can sell in California and significantly higher costs to California’s consumers. The poor are of course hurt the most.

And at the same time as the price of eggs are going through the roof, liberal policies have made California’s gasoline the highest price in the nation. Californians already pay among the highest gas taxes at the pump in the country, about 62 cents a gallon. Add to that the additional cost, as a result of our unique environmental laws, that require our gas be specially manufactured to reduce emissions. In mid-August, the average price for a gallon of regular gas nationwide was $2.61, but in California the average price was $3.63, if you could find it! Low income wage earners often depend upon transportation to find employment and to keep their jobs. One study showed that in the Central Valley, poorer residents can spend as much as 10% of their disposable income just on gasoline. Yet while emissions in Los Angeles caused by automobiles have been reduced by over 98%, and the air is just getting cleaner as more low emission vehicles enter the market, California’s expensive and outmoded environmental rules keep the cost of gasoline at the highest in the nation, and the poor suffer the most.

California’s high cost of living has only been made worse by the tax policies of the liberal Democrats in control. Our state sales tax is the highest in the nation, which raises the cost of most every retail transaction. The high cost of living in the state has made it the poorest in the nation according to the Census Bureau, with 24% of Californians living at or below the poverty line.

But liberal Democrats just continue to enact policies that make living in California more expensive. Now liberals are seeking to crush California’s poor even more. In Sacramento, rather than rearrange spending priorities, liberal Democrats are planning to raise the gas tax another 12 cents a gallon, and raise vehicle licensing fees as well. They intend to raise property taxes on commercial real estate too, which will make renting an apartment more expensive. These policies will drive up the cost of living even more, and make our state’s low income wage earners even poorer. When government pushes the cost of food, transportation, and housing to such an extreme that poverty only worsens, it means other bad things are going to happen in the state, like rising violent and property crime rates, and we all ought to start taking notice.

James V. Lacy is principal author and editor of the new book, “Taxifornia 2016: 14 Essays on the Future of California,” now available at the CreateSpace eStore here: https://www.createspace.com/5497002, and at Amazon and other outlets after Labor Day.

GOP Presidential Nominees Fire Back at Brown on Climate Change Challenge

jerry-brownAfter submitting a letter-length question to Republican candidates ahead of their first round of primary-season debates, Gov. Jerry Brown has received some responses.

Heated rhetoric

Pressing ahead with the environmental emphasis characterizing his final term in office, Brown asked the presidential hopefuls to outline their own policies. “Longer fire seasons, extreme weather and severe droughts aren’t on the horizon, they’re […] here to stay,” he wrote, as the Sacramento Bee reported. “Given the challenge and the stakes, my question for you is simple: What are you going to do about it? What is your plan to deal with the threat of climate change?”

Brown’s office told the Bee he submitted his question via the Facebook page of Fox News, which solicited questions from viewers of the debates, which it hosted and televised.

This month, as the San Gabriel Valley Tribute noted, Brown hit out against the field again, using a fresh report on July temperatures to lambaste “Republicans, foot-dragging corporations and other deniers.” Surveying the damage to the fire-stricken Clear Lake area, Brown “repeated his challenge to Republican presidential candidates,” the Los Angeles Times reported, warning that “California is burning” and asking, bluntly, “What the hell are you going to do about it?”

Republican responses

So far, at least three Republican candidates have touched on environmental issues in the wake of Brown’s challenges.

Not all their remarks have been directly responsive, however. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker recently took the opportunity to critique “radical environmental policies that stop things like dams from going in so that water … can be used effectively,”according to the Bee.

But Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, who had challenged Sen. Barbara Boxer’s re-election, both addressed Brown head on, the Bee added. While Cruz dismissed “alarmists” as power-hungry schemers, Fiorina took a more nuanced approach; although she first conceded it “may well be true” that California’s drought was worsened by climate change, she also criticized policymakers for failing to prepare for the kind of droughts the state has had “for millennia.”

Shifting opinions

Republicans on the campaign trail have broadly reflected opinions among constituents nationwide. Even in California, Republicans have demonstrated consistent skepticism toward claims that human activity has fostered dangerous alterations in temperatures and weather. In a new poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, a majority of Golden State Republicans said “they don’t believe that climate change is happening and that they don’t think it will be a serious problem in the future,” as the San Jose Mercury News reported. “They also support expanding fossil fuel production — from increasing offshore oil drilling along California’s coast to expanding fracking.”

Yet the poll evinced some wiggle room on environmental policy issues. Fully 43 percent of California Republican respondents supported stricter in-state climate rules than what the federal government has passed into law. “Californians of all parties said they support increasing tax credits for electric vehicles and solar power,” the Mercury News added.

In a recent nonpartisan poll commissioned by a water policy foundation, Californians seemed to confirm that the drought had become a leading issue of worry across the ideological spectrum. According to the Los Angeles Times, “62 percent of poll subjects said they would be very willing or somewhat willing to pay $4 more a month for water if the funds were used to improve water supply reliability. Such an increase, if applied to the entire state, would generate about a billion dollars, according to poll sponsors.”

Environmentalists divided

Brown’s environmentalist policies haven’t satisfied all critics. His administration’s emphasis on reducing emissions, for instance, has led some to wonder why he hasn’t pushed harder for cheaper electricity rates, which would benefit owners of many zero-emissions vehicles. One objection, recently voiced in the San Diego Daily Transcript, warned that Brown’s policies “will systematically shift profits into a few private hands instead of building, managing and maintaining a solid and reliable electric-charging infrastructure comparable to our utility grid.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com