Some bills are silly, and some are just dumb

Every session of the California Legislature generates some bills that can only be labeled as silly – that is, they defy common sense.

One example this year is a bill that would abolish paper receipts at retail businesses, thereby requiring customers to supply their email addresses so merchants can send them electronic records of their purchases.

The rationale for the legislation, Assembly Bill 161 by Assemblyman Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat, is to reduce paper waste that may contain dangerous chemicals.

The supposed problem this bill purports to solve is minuscule, or more likely infinitesimal, but if it becomes law, it will build databases for merchants that can be used for marketing, and make it easier for hackers to steal consumers’ identities.

Another is Assembly Bill 1162, the brainchild of Assemblyman Ash Kalra, a San Jose Democrat, which would prohibit hotels from supplying their patrons with tiny containers of shampoo and other personal care products, once again on the spurious notion that it would reduce the waste stream.

Kalra takes his cue from a local ordinance to that effect in Santa Cruz County. If the residents of that county want to engage in feel-good gestures, that’s their business. But why should their foolishness be foisted on the 40 million other Californians and the millions of people who visit California each year?

Both bills, as well as many others, reflect the current Legislature’s yen to regulate or eliminate every aspect of human behavior that doesn’t comport with current progressive dogma. But there’s a point at which silliness gives way to pure dumbness – and that brings us to Assembly Bill 857.

Carried by Assemblyman David Chiu, also a San Francisco Democrat, the measure would authorize local governments to create their own banks.

During an Assembly committee hearing on the measure last week, Chiu railed at “Wall Street bankers” that have mistreated consumers. He portrayed local government-owned banks as an antidote that would provide financing for progressive projects and services and shun loans to such politically incorrect activities as oil drilling and the manufacture of guns and cigarettes.

“The private banking system has unfortunately failed,” Chiu said, contending that local government-owned banks would “keep taxpayer dollars in local communities.”

While Chiu demonized big banks – who certainly have not been paragons of ethical operations – shifting local government funds into their own banks would have virtually no impact on the big guys.

Rather, as the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee was told by several witnesses, it would undermine the liquidity of local community banks, create unfair competition to those banks, and disrupt the pooled money investment accounts that county treasurers maintain for other local governments.

From that standpoint alone, AB 857 is very flawed. But that’s just the beginning of its dangerous aspects.

At the very least, local politicians would be under terrific pressure to provide funds from their banks for cockamamie schemes that can’t pass muster with regular banks.

Furthermore, under the legislation, any local government entity could create a bank – even the tiniest mosquito abatement or water district.

We’ve seen time after time how sharp operators gain political control of such obscure agencies and then devise ways to manipulate their powers, such as issuing bonds and awarding lucrative contracts, to loot their treasuries. It’s why the speaker of the state Assembly, Anthony Rendon, calls his Los Angeles County district a “corridor of corruption.”

Creating local government banks would be creating new conduits to such chicanery. And that makes AB 857, which won committee approval, a very dumb bill.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

New bill would put state in charge of setting California health care prices


MedizinAssemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, has introduced a new bill that would put California in charge of setting prices for hospital visits, trips to the doctor and other medical services.

Under the legislative proposal, the state would create an independent agency that would set prices for the health care market – prices that would be based off the current pricing structure for Medicare.

However, there would be a process for hospitals to appeal and argue that certain procedures require a higher rate.

“By building upon existing models, we can establish a transparent process by which increases in health care costs can be kept reasonable while also expanding access to care,” Kalra said at a Monday press conference.

Proponents of Assembly Bill 3087, including major labor groups, argue that it would help control rising health care costs and give consumers more predictability in assessing health care pricing, while opponents, like doctors and hospitals, maintain that it risks decreasing the quality of care and would cause physicians to leave the state.

“No state in America has ever attempted such an unproven policy of inflexible, government-managed price caps across every health care service,” said California Medical Association President Theodore M. Mazer said in a statement. “It threatens to reverse the historic gains for health coverage and access made in California since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.”

California spends about $8,000 per capita on health care every year, totaling around $300 billion, according to the California Health Care Foundation, and it’s a cost that is affecting everything from the state budget, business’s bottom lines and employee paychecks.

“Medical monopolies are the only ones who benefit from skyrocketing prices; the rest of us are paying the price because we have no choice,” Roxanne Sanchez, President of SEIU Local 1021 and SEIU California, said in a statement supporting the bill posted on care4allca.org.

But the overarching concern is that state officials would be making decisions on behalf of patients – raising concerns about rationing, a lower quality of care and longer wait times.

Additionally, the proposal is also being opposed by progressives in support of single-payer, seeing the legislation as just making a dent in a larger problem that needs complete overhaul.

More broadly, it’s just the latest effort to overhaul the Golden State’s health care system. Last March, state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, introduced a bill to create a single-payer model, but the plan stalled in Sacramento after there were few details laid out on how to pay for the “Medicare for all” system.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Democrats Seek to Ban High-Interest Consumer Loans


money bagCalifornia Democrats have filed a bill that would cap annual interest rates at 19 percent and wipe out about $2.7 billion in loans to California residents.

Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) introduced AB-2500, which would set a 19 percent interest rates cap for consumer loans with balances of between $2,500 and $10,000. The legislation in the last three weeks has picked up eight additional Democrat co-sponsors.

The California Legislature ended interest rate limitations for small loans above $2,500 in the 1980s. As a result, there was an estimated $1.5 billion in un-bankable intermediate-term loans issued to state residents, with over half the lending is at annual interest rates over 100 percent or more.

The new bill does not target very short-term pay-day loans, which can charge interest rates of up to 400 percent annualized to borrow up to $500 to bridge the gap between paychecks. But it would raise the cap from $2,500 to $10,000, for loans subject to a 19 percent interest rate limit.

The forecast impact on the $2.7 billion California industry would be to eliminate 98 percent of the $2,500 to $5,000 loans, and 95 percent of the $5,000 to $10,000 loans.

Kalra and other Democrats tried last year to ban the high interest rate practices, but the effort ran into industry lobbying and consumers desperate for emergency cash.

But as Chair of the Assembly Aging and Long Term Care Committee, Assemblyman Kalra has been able to host a number of large meetings for his “Safe Consumer Lending Act”over the last four months, including his latest in Sacramento on February 15.

Kalra highlights residents like JoAnn Hesson, who suffered from diabetes for many years. She is living on Social Security, and required twin surgeries to amputate a leg and provide a kidney transplant. Although she only borrowed $5,000, Hesson was eventually required to repay $42,000.

According to Assemblyman Kalra: “California has no shortage of predatory lenders. We see them pop-up around the state, especially in low-income neighborhoods. These types of loans, those with exorbitantly high interest rates, hurt hard working families the most,”

Principal co-author Sen. Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) added: “Compound irresponsible behavior by unscrupulous lending institutions with a recent federal proposal to end key consumer-protection measures for payday loans, and it is clear California must do more to protect families.”

AB 2500 is also co-sponsored by the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) – 5th Episcopal District; Asian Law Alliance; Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles; Unidos US (formerly the National Council of La Raza); and the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California