Dems Battle Each Other Over Gun Control

GunSeeking to bolster his early-bird campaign for governor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom forged ahead with a controversial ballot initiative designed to put severe strictures on guns in California. But in addition to raising the ire of Republicans statewide, Newsom has begun to clash with members of his own party in Sacramento, who don’t share his vision of the right political strategy on the issue in November and beyond.

Exploiting divides

Beyond “checks for ammunition purchases — like those already in place for guns — the measure would ban possession of large-capacity rifle magazines, require gun owners to notify police when their weapons are lost or stolen, and enact rules for courts to confiscate guns from criminals who are prohibited from possessing them,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported. “Other provisions would reclassify possession of a stolen gun as a felony and require California to share its background check information with the FBI.”

“Newsom said supporters will submit 600,000 signatures on petitions to qualify an initiative that would strengthen California’s gun-control laws, already some of the strictest in the nation. They need 365,880 signatures of registered voters to make the ballot.”

In 1982, the paper noted, gun control advocates’ last effort at taking their agenda directly to voters resulted in defeat at the hands of a well-organized opposition mobilized by the National Rifle Association. Republicans have already begun to plan for a similar effort. Congressional candidate Tim Donnelly called Newsom’s plan a “disaster” that would spur outsized Republican turnout at the polls, according to the Sacramento Bee. “Donnelly, who was once cited for bringing a loaded gun to an airport, said in recent months he’s become an even bigger supporter of gun rights, citing the terror attack in San Bernardino,” the paper added.

Two different playbooks

With the state GOP divided and stunned by Donald Trump’s sweep toward the Republican nomination for president, however, Newsom has not put a great deal of stock in opposition to his plan from the right. On the left, however, he has stepped on the toes of legislative Democrats, complicating his plans considerably. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, “wants him to agree to step aside if the issue can gain traction in the Legislature by June,” as the Los Angeles Times reported. De León “warned his fellow Democrat in a private letter on Thursday that pursuing the initiative could ‘derail’ gun control” — but “Newsom wrote back later Thursday urging de León to join his initiative drive. He voiced skepticism about legislative efforts to address gun control, adding that the measure de León supports is ‘fundamentally different’ from his ballot measure, the Safety for All Act.”

“Newsom said only an initiative, for instance, can amend part of 2014’s criminal justice measure, Proposition 47 — a portion that critics say would allow people convicted of theft of a firearm to be charged with a lesser crime than felony grand theft.”

For their part, Critical Democrats have expressed worries that Newsom is willing to risk a political miscalculation in order to establish his brand as a proactive progressive who shouldn’t be seriously challenged in his run for higher office.

Although both de León and Newsom could benefit from support from within the governor’s mansion, neither has managed to lock it in. “Evan Westrup, spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, maintained the governor has not taken a position on this initiative and generally doesn’t comment on pending ballot measures,” Fox News reported. “But in 2013 the governor vetoed a proposed reporting of stolen or lost firearms, saying he was ‘not convinced that criminalizing the failure to report a lost or stolen firearm would improve identification of gun traffickers or help law enforcement disarm people prohibited from possessing guns.’”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Threats of Increased Gun Control Result in Increased Statewide Sales

GunCalifornia’s experience with gun control and gun sales has created an ironic situation with significant implications for policy: Tighter regulations have increased along with firearms purchases.

The phenomenon cuts both for and against the prevailing party platforms on the political Left and Right. “The increase in handgun sales coincides with a dip in gun-related crimes,” for example, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, lending support to conservatives’ insistence that most gun owners have no interest in breaking the law and no greater inclination toward violence. “The number of aggravated assaults in California involving a firearm dropped from more than 23,000 in 2005 to less than 16,000 last year,” the paper added. “The number of gun-related murders fell from 1,845 to 1,169 over the same time period.”

Growing unease

On the other hand, the statistics also reinforce the liberal contention that even very strict controls on guns can leave the Second Amendment intact, preserving citizens’ sport shooting and self-defense interests. In a further irony, however, the data indicates that robust gun sales have been boosted by a widespread perception among current gun owners that access to weaponry is being progressively sealed off.  “While more handguns are being sold in California, it doesn’t necessarily mean there are more gun owners. Some researchers have found the number of American households that own a firearm is at a 40-year low, even though transactions are climbing. This suggests a smaller group of people is collecting more weapons,” the Chronicle surmised.

The state’s 2014 ban on openly carrying unloaded guns, going into effect at the beginning of 2016, was “not expected to slow the growth in gun sales,” as SFist noted. Other new rules taking effect on the first of the year required that “pellet, BB, and airsoft guns must be brightly colored, to help distinguish them,” and that “concealed carry permit holders will no longer be allowed to bring their weapons onto school grounds or college campuses,” as the Christian Science Monitor reported.

But another impending law has raised the ire of a relatively broad group of activists and interest groups. January 1 triggers legislation, written and passed in the aftermath of the Isla Vista shooting, that “gives the police or family members the option to petition the courts to seize the guns and ammunition of someone they think poses a threat,” as the Guardian observed — “the first law of its kind in the country.”

Diminishing returns?

But, the paper noted, this so-called gun violence restraining order “has raised concerns from lawmakers and pro-gun groups about civil liberties and questions about how effective it will really be.” The now-customary wave of litigation set to emerge from the uncertain legal landscape was expected to refine the law’s implications, which legislators in Sacramento haggled over on the way to passage. “It will become clearer after petitions begin to flow through the California courts what kind of evidence, minimally, could result in the issuance of a temporary firearms restraining order,” according to the Guardian.

Other new restrictions on guns proposed this election season have raised further questions. While Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has begun campaigning on a policy that “would prohibit their possession and require anyone who has them to sell to a licensed firearm dealer, transfer them out of state or relinquish them to law enforcement for disposal,” as the Sacramento Bee reported, Gov. Jerry Brown has instead played up the limits of California restrictions that aren’t mirrored or reinforced by neighboring states and the federal government. “We have among the strictest gun control regulations in the country, and it doesn’t do us that much good if other states and the federal government is basically passive in this effort to keep guns out of the wrong hands,” Brown told CNN, according to the Bee.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

New Year Brings Country’s Highest Minimum Wage to CA

Minimum WageCalifornia will start the new year with a record-setting wage floor.

“On Jan. 1 California will have the highest minimum wage in the country,” as Capital Public Radio noted. “California workers earning minimum wage will get an extra dollar an hour at the beginning of the year. The state raised the rate from $8 to $9 in July 2014. Soon it will be $10 an hour.” Legislation hiking the wage was sponsored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas. According to Alejo, the increase would result in about $2,000 more net dollars over a year’s time working 40 hours a week at the new minimum wage.

A few other added benefits passed into law were set to take effect at the same time. “Workers will also be able to use job-protected leave to address child-care or school emergencies as of New Year’s Day,” CBS reported. According to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the channel noted, the new rules were expected to impact over 9 million California workers at or below the $7.25 federal minimum wage. (This year, legislators made one additional change to state labor law, the station noted, requiring “the cheerleaders and dance teams of professional sports organizations such as the Los Angeles Lakers to be classified as employees.”)

Faced with setbacks in Congress, Democrats nationwide increased pressure on state legislatures this year to hike their minimum wages. But in California, their push gained even more traction at the municipal level. “According to the UC Berkeley Labor Center, there are 29 cities and counties in the United States that have wage floors higher than their state’s minimum,” the Bakersfield Californian observed. “Fourteen of those local governments are in California.”

Local blowback

But some Golden State municipalities have balked. A new city leadership in Desert Hot Springs killed an ambitious minimum wage ordinance that “would have hiked the minimum wage for such employers to $10.20 per hour next year, with $1 increases in each of the following two years and jumps tied to the consumer price index after that,” as the Desert Sun reported. “Unions and franchisees would have been exempt,” it added — unlike Walmart, which signaled it would re-evaluate its long-time plans to add a franchise in town if the wage proposal went through.

The Southland’s economic situation has become a bone of political contention this election season, with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom taking heat for already pushing a $15 minimum wage statewide. “Labor markets in Imperial County, for example, already struggle to supply even more-experienced job-seekers with work,” wrote Michael Saltsman in a column for the Orange County Register. “The unemployment rate for all employees hovers around 22 percent. Across all occupations, the median hourly wage is $13.79. Even supporters of a higher minimum wage are uncomfortable with a wage floor that’s much higher than half of the median wage, which means $15 would be economic suicide for Imperial County.”

Replacing workers

Critics of dramatic increases in the state minimum have long contended that their impact includes cutbacks on hiring. “In an analysis of Los Angeles’ wage hike commissioned by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Beacon Economics argued the wage ordinance could lead to businesses employing fewer low-wage workers, resulting in a higher unemployment rate among unskilled workers,” as the Californian observed. But now, concerns about the outright replacement of workers by machines have been added to the mix. “Employer groups opposed to raising the minimum wage say labor costs are already driving decisions to replace human labor with technology,” KPCC reported. “They say higher minimum wages will accelerate automation trends in the workplace.”

Richard LoGuercio, president of an event rentals company in Van Nuys, told KPCC he was “just screwed” with the fast hike, although he supported gradual increases in the minimum wage. “After the minimum wage ordinance was approved, LoGuercio invested in a $150,000 industrial dishwasher he had been eyeing to save on utility costs,” the station recounted. “The machine will also allow him to stop paying six to eight people who earn $10 to $11 an hour washing dishes. LoGuercio expects to recoup his costs in nine months, and save a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year going forward.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CA Student Debt “Crisis” Attracting Varying Attention

graduation college debtWhile California students mustered to lead a nationwide movement for college debt relief, policymakers and innovators grappled with the issue in ways of their own.

Students in the UC system — particularly the Berkeley campus — have taken a central role in pushing the co-called Million Student March. Protest organizers have announced a sweeping agenda including “a $15 minimum wage for student employees on college campuses, free tuition at public universities, and the abolition of student debt,” according to Time. “The Million Student March was an idea that started with a remark made by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, stating elected officials wouldn’t care about supporting higher education until a million students were out marching,” as UCSA President Kevin Sabo told the Daily Californian.

An uncertain path

The latest elements of student debt policy emanating from Washington have been a mixed bag. The new revisions to the federal Pay As You Earn program “will let all borrowers with federal direct student loans who are not in default cap their monthly payments at 10 percent of discretionary income, no matter when they borrowed or their debt-to-income ratio,” as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Meanwhile, a twist in federal robocall law has raised the specter of heightened fraud risks for targeted students. “Under the new provision, robocalls could only be directed at people with student loans backed by the federal government,” noted KOMO Channel 4 News. “For many, that’s just one more opportunity for scammers and deceptive marketers to expand their operations. State and federal regulators already have their hands full with illegal companies that make unsolicited calls claiming they can help consumers consolidate student loan debt or get loan modifications  for a large and illegal up-front free.”

Tuition politics

Californians have actually fared better than others as the debt crisis continues its upward spiral. “Students graduating from California colleges had just $21,382 in loans, fourth-lowest among the states,” the Institute for College Access and Success noted in its tenth annual report on student debt, according to the Chronicle.

“The state’s Cal Grant program pays up to the full cost of systemwide tuition and fees at University of California and California State University campuses, and up to a certain dollar amount ($9,084 in 2014-15) at qualifying private colleges. These grants, available to California residents from low- and moderate-income families, have helped defray soaring tuition.”

ICAS research director Debbie Cochrane told the Chronicle that “tuition at UC and CSU campuses rose 128 percent, but the average debt for public-college graduates rose only 43 percent” over the past 10 years.

But some Golden State politicos have sought to frame state education as a crisis in need of broad new government support. Along with UC Regent Eloy Ortiz, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his support for an initiative called California College Promise, “a bold effort to offer two tuition-free years of community college for responsible students,” as they argued in the San Jose Mercury News. “This promise is true to California’s tradition of advancing our educational system at critical junctures to present future generations with better opportunities to succeed,” they wrote.

Disrupting debt

At the same time, student debt has attracted the attention of California’s startup scene. One new highly selective startup school, Make School, offers a two-year curriculum in tech — “billed as ‘debt-free education,’” as the Mercury News reported. “Ashu Desai, the 23-year-old cofounder of Make School, said widespread concerns about student debt and abuses in the for-profit college sector influenced his decision not to charge tuition up front. Instead, the school charges a percentage of graduates’ wages — or, alternatively, an investment in their startup — instead of a flat fee.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Boondoggle Alert: CA’s Politicians Pretend Private Investors Want In On High-Speed Rail

high speed rail trainIn November 2008, California voters narrowly approved Proposition 1A, which provided $9.95 billion in government money for a statewide bullet-train network. The initiative passed, even though the California High-Speed Rail Authority had been legally required to release a detailed, updated business plan by October 1 of that year, so that voters would have time to learn exactly how the state planned to finance what was then billed as a $43 billion project—and no updated plan was in view. Rail officials failed even to release a preliminary report before the election, claiming that state legislators’ long delay in passing the fiscal 2008–09 budget made doing so impossible.

Within days of Prop. 1A’s passage, however, the High-Speed Rail Authority at last released the plan. Just as critics had predicted, the document insisted that private investment would be easy to come by. All investors needed, the plan said, was “financial and political commitments from state officials that government would share the risks to their participation.” In other words, if California promised that taxpayers would guarantee ridership and revenue, then investors would come flocking. The problem? Prop. 1A explicitly banned taxpayer subsidies for the bullet-train project. Had the business plan been released before the election, it would have undercut the “no-downside” narrative offered by the project’s political champions, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Since then, rail-authority leaders have continued to pretend that massive private investment is just around the corner. Initially, these claims were buttressed by vague generalizations. In recent years, however, the authority has tried to suggest that contractors interested in working on the now-$68 billion project might also be willing to help finance it. Most reporters on the state government beat have swallowed these claims uncritically. A July 2014 San Jose Mercury-News story noted that “a deal that will send the project hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees collected from polluters is the signal the private sector was waiting for.” But here’s what the coverage usually leaves out: the private-sector companies sniffing around the bullet-train project never invest without government promises to step in if things don’t go according to plan.

Only Ralph Vartabedian of the Los Angeles Times appears to understand that the project probably won’t get the funding it needs without taxpayer subsidies. “Major construction, equipment and engineering firms around the world, responding to a solicitation to form a partnership with the California high-speed rail project, have raised serious concerns about the state’s shortage of funding, the potential need for long-term operating subsidies and whether the project can meet the current construction schedule,” he reported last month. “The appeal for financial and technical partners drew responses from across Europe, Asia and the U.S. But none of the companies expressed a readiness to invest their own money, and some included reservations about the risks.”

Vartabedian’s analysis, and his paper’s in-depth look at the bullet-train project detailing how state rail-authority officials buried a report predicting a $9 billion cost overrun on the initial 300-mile segment, have shaken up California public-policy circles. The Times coverage seems certain to trigger legislative hearings. State Senate president Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat, has already expressed his skepticism about the project, as has Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who wants to be governor. What was shaping up as one of the world’s biggest government boondoggles might yet be averted at a cost of only a few billion—which sounds like a bargain, compared with digging the financial hole still deeper.

Gun Rights Lawsuit Targets L.A.’s Prohibition of High-Capacity Magazines

IMG_0383With gun rights and regulations emerging as a hot-button issue in California politics, the city of Los Angeles has provoked a high-profile lawsuit against a recent prohibition on so-called high-capacity magazines.

“This summer, the City Council banned possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition,” the Associated Press recalled. “Owners have until Nov. 18 to sell the magazines, take them out of the city or surrender them to police.” Failure to abide by the new law would result in a misdemeanor. The July ban came in the wake of reports issued by the L.A. city attorney, accordingto Courthouse News; it went into effect last month.

Bringing suit

The response from law enforcement and gun enthusiasts has been swift. Thirty sheriffs statewide brought suit against the ban, joined by the California Reserve Peace Officers Association and the Golden State’s National Rifle Association affiliate, the California Rifle and Pistol Association, noted the Los Angeles Daily News. “Since 2000, California has outlawed manufacturing or selling high-capacity magazines, but Los Angeles’ ordinance goes further, making it illegal to possess them,” the paper added.

That statewide rule factored into the logic driving the lawsuit. According to the plaintiffs, “when Los Angeles banned gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds in July, it ‘land locked’ gun owners who already had the legal weapons,” Courthouse News reported:

“Lead plaintiff Shasta County Sheriff Thomas Bosenko says that California has regulated the sale, possession and use of high-capacity magazines — those that hold more than 10 bullets — since Jan. 1, 2000. High-capacity magazines legally acquired before that date were exempt from the state’s ‘regulatory scheme’ and grandfathered in, according to the Oct. 23 lawsuit.”

But some legal analysts have already suggested that the lawsuit could be in vain. “Cities including Sunnyvale and San Francisco also ban possession of high-capacity magazines and have successfully fended off lawsuits from the NRA,” the Daily News observed.

A broader battle

At the same time, the Los Angeles ban follows on the heels of a similar law in San Francisco, whose former mayor and now Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has vowed to extend the prohibition across all of California. “He proposes a statewide ban on possession — not just sales — of high-capacity ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds,” as George Skelton noted in the Los Angeles Times. In an interview with Skelton, Newsom said that his plan to circumvent the Legislature by putting the ban on the ballot illustrated “why direct democracy was conceived.” But he remained “vague,” Skelton suggested, about how to enforce the proposed rules, which would require owners “to sell them to a licensed dealer, take them out of state or turn them over to law enforcement.”

Although the plaintiffs challenging L.A.’s law have warned of a patchwork quilt of prohibitions too hard for gun owners to discern and obey, that kind of regime has emerged as the likely alternative to Newsom-style regulations covering the whole of California. Gov. Jerry Brown, known as a relative skeptic toward ever-stricter gun control, has effectively become the only officeholder capable of derailing new statewide rules cracking down on guns or ammunition.

In 2013, on the heels of another threatened lawsuit by the NRA, Brown rejected what would have been among the toughest of state laws. “Brown vetoed Senate Bill 374, which would have banned semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines and required firearm owners to register even low-capacity rifles as assault weapons,” the Washington Post reported. “In a message to the Legislature, Brown wrote he didn’t ‘believe that this bill’s blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights,’” the Post added.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Gavin Newsom Announces 2016 Gun Control Ballot Initiative

Gavin newsomThrusting himself to the forefront of America’s campaign-season controversy around access to firearms, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom seized the opportunity to define the 2018 gubernatorial race early, proposing a ballot initiative that would usher in sweeping new gun laws.

Although Newsom’s liberal bona fides were not in question, analysts observed that his calculated risk to wade into the debate made sense in the context of California’s current political climate. “High-profile ballot measure campaigns can help bolster a candidate’s visibility,” as the Los Angeles Times noted. “And because of dismal voter turnout in the last California election, the threshold to qualify measures has been dropped to 365,000 petition signatures, much lower than the previous standard.”

Guns in the crosshairs

Newsom didn’t hesitate to cast himself as a champion of the anti-gun movement, capable of going head to head against the nation’s strongest firearms rights lobbies. “The NRA doesn’t own me, they haven’t bought me — and they never will. They’ve already come after us,” he said in remarks to Capital New York, a Politico publication, “and it’s going to intensify.”

Calling the National Rifle Association “extraordinarily effective at stifling the legislative process,” Newsom vowed “to fight a different fight — that is, direct democracy. We’re going directly to voters. Because the public is with us, including the NRA members themselves.”

Uncertain terrain

To an extent, Newsom has public opinion on his side in the Golden State. “A poll last month by the Public Policy Institute of California found that two-thirds of adults believe California’s gun control laws should be stricter than they are now,” USA Todayreported. “It found that 57 percent of adults said controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting the right of Americans to own guns, while 40 percent said protecting gun ownership is more important.”

But Newsom was cagey on the subject of Gov. Jerry Brown, who has torpedoed California gun legislation in the recent past. His proposed initiative, the Sacramento Bee noted, incorporates “provisions of bills that have stalled at the state Capitol or were vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in recent years.” In addition to compelling sellers of bullets to be licensed in the same manner as sellers of guns, the Bee continued, Newsom’s initiative would “establish a process to seize guns from people prohibited from owning them because of their criminal records, mandate that lost or stolen guns be reported to law enforcement, and require the California Department of Justice to notify federal authorities when someone is added to the state database of prohibited firearms owners.”

Californians have already directly or indirectly established one of the strictest sets of firearms regulations in the country, with “a 10-day waiting period for all firearm purchases, an assault weapons ban, and a ban on making and selling magazines that hold more than 10 rounds,” as the San Jose Mercury News recalled. “The state enacted its assault weapons ban in 1989 and expanded it 10 years later,” the paper added, although “those who already owned the banned guns and magazines were allowed to register and keep them.”

Fueling fears

Of all the provisions proposed by Newsom, one stood out: the ban on so-called “large capacity” gun magazines. UCLA law professor Adam Winkler told the Bee that the provision would “hit a lot of ordinary gun owners where it hurts,” potentially turning gun moderates against the initiative. “It plays into the hands of gun-rights proponents who are always warning that the government is going to come take your guns,” he suggested.

In a statement, NRA spokeswoman Amy Hunter promptly advanced that standpoint. “His ballot initiative proposal does nothing but prohibit access to the most effective methods for self-defense, with no measurable positive effect on stopping crime or improving public safety,” she told Courthouse News. “They can’t repeal the Second Amendment, so they’re trying to chip away our rights until there is nothing left,” she said.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Marijuana Supporters Still Split Over 2016 Ballot Initiative

marijuana-leafThe biggest of the California marijuana initiatives has at last been unveiled. But it has yet to lock up enough support to wipe out the competition.

Striking a balance

“The Control, Regulate and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016 would allow people 21 and over to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana and it would set up legal marijuana commerce overseen by a pair of new state agencies, the California Cannabis Commission and the Office of Cannabis Regulatory Affairs,” as Alternet reported. The law was crafted, according to ReformCA, “to comport with the guidelines laid down by pro-legalization Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy and to complement the statewide medical marijuana regulation scheme approved last month by the legislature.”

Newsom, off to an early start in his campaign to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, labored to find a middle path with the commission’s proposals. As CalWatchdog noted previously, Newsom’s panel put forth “a suite of policy prescriptions likely to leave many Californians with diminished hopes as well. Rejecting the notion of a free market for pot, the authors pushed for central regulatory oversight, standards for licensing and training, and rules barring youths from entering shops and purchasing certain types of product such as so-called edibles.”

ReformCA’s parent organization, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, was the driving force behind the initiative. Chairwoman Dale Sky Jones, who also runs Oaksterdam University — “the first college in the country for the study of cannabis” — has amassed a list of supporters from California’s variegated pro-marijuana constituency; “Americans for Safe Access, the Emerald Growers Assn., Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance and the Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation” have all signed on, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A fractious field

But ReformCA hasn’t managed to unite the pro-pot community completely. After the LA Weekly reported that ‘the coalition includes NORML, the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project,’ ReformCA had those organizations removed from its website,” the Weekly reported. “The Drug Policy Alliance, one of the biggest players in marijuana politics, might go its own way. It’s preparing its own language for circulation that could be filed later this month if DPA principals aren’t happy with other initiatives being prepared.”

“The DPA initiative, then, could end up being one of three serious proposals to tax and regulate recreational marijuana for those older than 21 in California. The other two could include one from Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker, multiple sources confirmed, and the one from ReformCA.”

In some pro-legalization circles, Parker has become something of a savior figure. Unlike the others jockeying to pass marijuana reform, he has money. “Reform CA ($167,000 annual budget in 2014), NORML ($312,000 in 2012, the most recent filings), and Americans for Safe Access (which was $182,000 in debt in 2012, according to income statements filed earlier this year), are all broke,” SF Weekly noted. Parker, by contrast, “put $600 million of his reported $2.5 billion fortune in a philanthropic foundation this summer,” while recently he has brought on “Sacramento campaign veterans Gale Kaufman and Brian Brokaw, as well as former Newsom campaign insider Jason Kinney,” according to the SF Weekly’s anonymous sources.

The Weekly even suggested that Newsom’s own recent silence on the topic of pot legalization might indicate his unwillingness to endorse an initiative until Parker comes forward with one of his own.

Speedy timetables

If the Act were to become law, change would come swiftly. “Similar to Oregon’s model, the initiative would not give state regulators much time to drag their feet before providing consumers with an outlet to purchase legal weed,” High Timesreported. The Office of Cannabis Regulation “would be forced to issue temporary licenses to the medical marijuana sector, so that recreational sales could begin as early as July 2017. Meanwhile, the state would be required to begin drafting definitive regulations for the new market in order to make it fully operational by the turn of 2018.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

More Consider the Gov. Race in 2018, but Not the Senate in 2016

The story last week that state Treasurer John Chiang is “contemplating” a run for governor in 2018 potentially expands the field in what could prove to be a very interesting and competitive race. Already announced for the seat is Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Former state controller, Steve Westly is said to be considering another run for the corner office. Other well-known names have been floated as well, including both the current and former mayors of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti and Antonio Villaraigosa and environmentalist Tom Steyer.

Democrats all.

But don’t count out a credible Republican candidate. As noted here previously, one Republican consultant said he expects a strong contender backed by influential Republican donor Charles Munger. Who might that contender be? Already discussions have focused on San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer or Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin as possible candidates. Other possibilities include Assembly Minority leader Kristin Olsen or Pete Peterson who ran a credible race for Secretary of State. There is the perennial talk about a Condoleezza Rice candidacy.

With all this attention on a governor’s race years away, it makes you wonder why there are not more candidates with strong name identification willing to challenge for the United States Senate seat that is opening up next year.

Attorney General Kamala Harris seems to have the field nearly to herself with congresswoman Loretta Sanchez making an effort to challenge. There are some Republican challengers as well, but none that have the name ID or well-established positions from which to launch their campaigns.

Who knows — considering Harris’s official title and summary on the pension reform initiative released this week — once again blasted by the measure’s authors — maybe instead of taking the issue to court the proponents will seek some sort of retribution by taking on the AG herself. Chuck Reed or Carl DeMaio for Senate anyone?

The Cigarette Tax Dilemma

cigarette smoking ashesIs a tax on cigarettes a revenue raiser or a “sin tax”—used to discourage individuals from using products considered harmful? The effort to raise taxes on cigarettes – there is a measure in the legislature as well a ballot initiative moving through the process—often directs new revenues toward specific purposes. Yet, the increased taxes often lower the use of a product thus reducing the revenue for organizations and agencies.

Last, week the Los Angeles Times reported that the First 5 committee, which received funding from a previous cigarette tax increase, was concerned that fewer smokers meant less revenue. The First 5 group, which focuses on improving early years of children’s lives, is attempting to rally the legislature to add revenue from any new cigarette tax to include First 5 in those groups that receive new revenue.

But the cycle will certainly continue for First 5 and any agency that receives cigarette money. A tax increase will likely once again reduce the number of smokers and cigarette purchases and at some point reduce the revenue agencies expect to receive.

The cigarette tax revenue for First 5 has dropped about 17% to $460 million over a five-year span.

Yet, shouldn’t the sponsors of the cigarette tax measures that purport to advance the tax to educate the populous about the negative effects of smoking cheer the reduction in the number of cigarettes purchased?

According to the article, First 5 is looking at an alternative for additional revenue by examining the promotion of a marijuana initiative and the tax revenue such an action would bring in to help replenish the First 5 coffers.

Others groups undoubtedly will also have their eyes on marijuana tax money despite the recent report from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s committee studying marijuana legalization that declared tax revenue should be low priority in considering legalizing marijuana.

Is concern for revenue paramount to the reduction of “sin” with many groups and agencies who receive these tax dollars?

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

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily