Reform CA Files Ethics Complaint Against Lorena Gonzalez Over ‘Employment Negotiations’ as Next Labor Leader

Watchdog group demands immediate resignation of Assemblywoman Gonzalez

The California Labor Federation, one of the largest and most influential union groups in California, voted to recommend Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) as their next leader on Tuesday in a non-binding vote, the Globe just reported Wednesday.

Politico ran a story late Tuesday night confirming “employment negotiations” have been occurring between Gonzalez and the powerful California Labor Federation.

However, many saw the articles and asked how a sitting elected Legislator can legally negotiate a future job with a labor group that regularly lobbies her on labor legislation?

Reform California announced Wednesday it has filed an ethics complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) demanding an immediate investigation, as well as enforcement actions, against Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez after news reports confirmed “employment negotiations” have been occurring between Gonzalez and the California Labor Federation.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

“I am filing this complaint and requesting an immediate investigation be initiated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) into possible violations of the California Political Reform Act (CPRA) by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez,” Carl DeMaio, Chairman of Reform California, said in the complaint.

“Late last night, the news outlet Politico confirmed ’employment negotiations’ have been occurring between Gonzalez and the powerful California Labor Federation.”

“Gonzalez quickly took to Twitter after the story broke to claim she has not yet accepted the job – but provisions in the California Political Reform Act (CPRA) make that immaterial to whether she has run afoul of state ethics laws,” Reform California noted.

Reform California explains the legalities:

“In fact, a state official who simply negotiates employment with a potential employer is covered under the law. Under subdivision (c) of Regulation 18747 of the CPRA, ‘a public official is ‘negotiating’ employment when he or she interviews or discusses an offer of employment with an employer or his or her agent.’”“Once it is established that a state official has engaged in conduct that triggers subdivision (c), Section 87407 of the CPRA applies: ‘No public official, shall make, participate in making, or use his or her official position to influence, any governmental decision directly relating to any person with whom he or she is negotiating, or has any arrangement concerning, prospective employment.’”

It is no secret to anyone involved in state politics that Gonzalez, who was CEO and Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO for five years prior to being elected to the Assembly in 2013, has been one of the most reliable legislative advocates for the California Labor Federation. She is on record sponsoring and voting for their legislation and utilizing her office to influence state agency activities, DeMaio said.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

Can Taxpayers Be Grateful This Thanksgiving?

As inflation takes a bigger bite out of your turkey than you do, it may be hard to find reasons to be grateful. But the truth is we still have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Here’s a few reasons why.

In the Legislature, success is often measured not in how many pro-taxpayer bills are passed but by how many anti-taxpayer bills are stopped. And, in that regard, this past year was better than expected.

A bill that would create a California Universal Basic Income and proposed to pay for it either through a value-added tax, raising corporate taxes or implementing a tax on services died in committee. Another bill that would have created a wealth tax failed to receive a hearing before deadline. An attempt to raise the already highest in the nation income tax rate for Californians making over $1 million to as high as 16.8%, was held in its first committee. A bill to create a single-payer healthcare system, and double the state budget in the process, was tabled.

In all, eleven bills HJTA opposed failed to make it out of the legislature. Five bills we supported were signed by the governor. One bill we opposed was vetoed by the governor. Five bills we supported failed to get out of the legislature. Eleven bills we opposed were signed by the governor and one bill we supported was vetoed by the governor.

HJTA went 17 for 34 this legislative session. We batted .500. Not bad for a taxpayer group in California. For that, we should be grateful.

Click here to read the entire article at the Press Telegram

California Receives Initial $58 Million from DOT for High Speed Rail Transit, Cycling ‘Infrastructure’ Projects

Funding ‘was really supposed to repair and maintain current infrastructure’

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) announced on Friday that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has given its first grants from the recently passed $1 Trillion infrastructure bill to California, with $58 million going to transportation projects in Northern California and to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority was the biggest recipient of the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Grant Program, receiving $24 million to expand state route 46 in the Kern County city of Wasco to be a staging and storing area. Another $18 will go to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) for an earthquake retrofit of the Yerba Buena Island west side bridge, as well as greater access to the bridge for cyclists.

Oakland will receive $14.5 million to enhance their civic hub by improving walking, cycling, and public transportation projects, with a special focus on connecting Oakland with San Francisco via rail lines such as BART and Amtrak. Finally, the Yolo County Transportation District (YCTD) will get $1.2 million to fill in gaps of their current transportation system, as well as to improve bike and walking networks.

Both Senators noted on Friday the importance of these early infrastructure funding blocks.

“My thanks to Secretary [Pete] Buttigieg and the Transportation Department for these grants that will help California continue to modernize our transportation infrastructure,” said Senator Feinstein. “These projects include providing safer, more connected bikeways and walkways in San Francisco; assisting the City of Wasco with creating safer railway infrastructure; and connecting biking and walking paths in Oakland and Yolo County. Promoting cleaner, safer modes of transportation is a key part of improving California’s infrastructure.”

An initial $58 million in infrastructure funds

Senator Alex Padilla (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Senator Padilla, who has served less than a year as Senator, also noted that “From day one, I have worked to ensure that we use our infrastructure investments to help reconnect our communities, and I am proud to see federal efforts to do just that. From San Francisco to Wasco, this critical funding will help make our roads and bridges safer, help decongest our highways, and allow for more Californians to access our outdoor trails. As we continue to make significant investments in our state and nation’s aging infrastructure, I will continue to advocate for funding that serves our most in-need communities.”

However, many critics and experts criticized the funding on Friday for favoring bike projects over safety and repair projects.

“Whether you wanted the bill to pass or not, the point is we have it now,” San Diego-based urban planner and transportation planner Michael McGuiness Jr. told the Globe Friday. “But that was really supposed to repair and maintain current infrastructure, or build new pieces as needed. Instead, California gave a hint at where its money would be going today by putting most of it into mass transit and cycling. There was a needed bridge project in San Francisco, but that’s really about it. The largest chunk even went into the high-speed rail project, which is billions over budget and years behind schedule. So a lot is going into a future white elephant.”

“Plus, they largely ignored huge swats of the state, including all of California south of Bakersfield and north of the Bay. At first glance, these grants don’t look like they’re fairly going out.”

More grants and funding coming into California for infrastructure projects are expected to be announced soon.

This article originally published in the California Globe

School Walkout: ‘Government Is Not A Co-Parent’ Rally At State Capitol Monday

‘Bow to the state or they will take everything from you’

The “Government Is Not A Co-Parent” rally At California’s State Capitol Monday was vast. The “Statewide School Walkout” rally was exactly what it professed it would be: moms, dads, children, grandparents, teachers, and concerned citizens, showed up en masse at the Capitol armed with homemade signs to protest public schools and teachers unions, which pushed to keep schools closed, forced kids into distance learning, and wearing masks all day, and now Gov. Newsom’s mandatory vaccine for children.

“Medical freedom” was/is at the root of the rally. The Globe spoke with parents whose children are otherwise fully vaccinated, but say Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID vaccine mandate is unconstitutional and a violation of their medical freedoms.

Speaking at Monday’s rally was Matthew Oliver, owner of House of Oliver wine lounge & restaurant in Roseville, CA. Oliver, a father of five, has protested the business and school lockdowns since the beginning in March 2020. “Welcome to the parent revolution,” Oliver said to loud cheers from the crowd.

“They tried to silence us, and tell us we didn’t matter,” Oliver said. “They tell us our voice doesn’t have power, but it does. Our governor and Legislature need to hear our voice.”

Oliver told the crowd that “now is the time to stand,” otherwise “silence is an endorsement.”

Ponderosa High School teacher Michael Wilkes was put on administrative paid leave after teaching classes while not wearing a mask. Wilkes, a father of three children, has achieved national attention for his stand.

Wilkes said it is important to stand up for individual freedoms and our love of liberty. “They are attempting to divide us over our own children – the tyranny of the powerful over the powerless – bow to the state or they will take everything from you.”

In a recent interview with WCSI, he said he encourages debate in his classes. “He said parents are growing tired of these mandates and pointed to last week’s protest in Sacramento as evidence,” WCSI reported. “The (October 26) protest included parents who lashed out against the Newsom vaccine mandate.”

Wilkes said the district is conducting an investigation and he may lose his job.

At the heart of the protest was Ponderosa high schooler Lexi, who said this all started one day she lowered her mask down below her chin, as many other students had. That went without incident, so she stopped wearing it altogether, and came to school without a mask for one entire week before one of her teachers sent her to the school administrators. Lexi said she walked into the office and none of the administrators were wearing masks. She called them on it, but they told her they only have to wear masks when students are present.

She was given few choices other than to comply with the mask mandate or she could be transferred to online learning. “My education should matter more than a mask,” Lexi said. The administrator told her he agreed, but said he couldn’t do anything without losing his job. Lexi told him to stand up for himself and the students, but fear of losing his job was too great. “It’s okay, I’ll stand up for you too,” Lexi told the administrator at her school. She left Ponderosa High School.

Click here to read full article at the California Globe

Emails Show LA Commissioner Used Influence to Help Win $3 Million COVID-19 Contract, Union Alleges

‘The public deserves to know who was pulling the strings to funnel a $3 million no-bid contract’ to a company partly owned by Commissioner Dr. Pedram Salimpour

An embattled Los Angeles fire and police pensions commissioner accused of ethics violations by a law enforcement union over a $3 million contract to test unvaccinated city employees for COVID-19 began lobbying Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office nearly a year ago on behalf of his company, raising questions from critics about potential influence peddling, emails obtained by the Southern California News Group reveal.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League is suing the city and demanding an investigation, alleging it failed to disclose that testing contractor PPS Health Inc., doing business as Bluestone Safe, is partly owned by Dr. Pedram Salimpour, who was reappointed by Garcetti to the pension commission in 2017.

“Did commissioner Salimpour mislead his commissioner-colleagues and the professional staff as to just how involved he was and how much he stood to gain with this taxpayer-funded contract? asked Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the union. “We all deserve answers.”

The union lawsuit seeks to block the city from requiring unvaccinated employees to pay for COVID-19 tests through payroll deductions at a cost of $65 per test. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 8.

Bluestone among 7 firms vetted

The Los Angeles Personnel Department said it vetted seven vendors with vaccine and testing tracking services before awarding the no-bid, emergency contract to Bluestone to test city employees. With the exception of Bluestone, the other vendors were not identified.

Bluestone was the only company that offered a variety of services at a competitive rate, including vaccine card verification, daily symptom monitoring, a PCR saliva test, vaccine exemptions submission and tracking, and health services counseling, Bruce Whidden. a spokesman for the Personnel Department, said in an email.

“The services of Bluestone Safe have a proven success record with other area governments, including Los Angeles County and several Native American tribes,” he added.

Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions, which manages more than $30 billion in assets and administers retirement and health benefits for nearly 27,000 current and retired public safety employees and their beneficiaries, said last month Salimpour was “not engaged nor part of the review and vetting process” for the Bluestone contract.

That improbable explanation raises questions about whether Salimpour may have manipulated the pension commission, Saggau said.

“The public deserves to know why the pension commission released an official statement that downplayed commissioner Salimpour’s ownership and management control of Bluestone, as well as stating that Salimpour was not engaged and had no role in the process to gain the contract,” he added. “Why would a city entity defend the profit-focused actions of an individual?”

Bluestone issued a statement saying it has done nothing wrong. “Bluestone sought out and followed legal advice and complied with all applicable ethics laws,” a spokesperson for the company said. “The allegations made by Los Angeles Police Protective League are simply false.”

Click here to read the full article at Los Angeles Daily News

Underground Regulations and California’s Administrative Procedure Act

The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) is charged with ensuring that agency and department regulations are “clear, necessary, legally valid, and available to the public.” OAL is responsible for reviewing proposed regulations by California’s more than 200 state agencies and departments that have rulemaking authority.

The formal rulemaking process is established by the California Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the APA sets forth the criteria by which OAL reviews all of those regulations. OAL reviews regular and emergency rulemaking projects, as well as challenged “underground” regulations.

On the OAL website (www.oal.ca.gov), readers can track on a table the list of rulemaking actions submitted to OAL for review. This list is updated daily per OAL. The website also contains a listing of underground regulation petitions that are under review by OAL. (https://oal.ca.gov/underground_regulations/underground-regulations-under-review/).

Concerning the review of alleged underground regulations, the role of OAL is specified in the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 1, Division 1, Chapter 2, which is titled “Underground Regulations.”

In Section 250(a), it provides the following definition: “’underground regulation’ means any guideline, criterion, bulletin, manual, instruction, order, standard of general application, or other rule, including a rule governing a state agency procedure, that is a regulation as defined in Section 11342.600 of the Government Code, but has not been adopted as a regulation and filed with the Secretary of State pursuant to the AP A and is not subject to an express statutory exemption from adoption pursuant to the APA.”

In CCR Section 260, the submission of underground regulation petitions is discussed. Section 270 deals with the OAL review of these petitions. And, Section 280 describes the suspension of underground regulation actions. In terms of “underground regulations,” OAL is charged with reviewing any such challenged regulatory agency actions by way of a petition filed with OAL.

According to the OAL, “if a state agency issues, utilizes, enforces, or attempts to enforce a rule without following the APA when it is required to, the rule is called an ‘underground regulation.’ State agencies are prohibited from enforcing underground regulations.” If an individual or entity believes a state agency or department has issued an alleged underground regulation, that issuance can be challenged by filing a written petition with OAL.

If OAL accepts the petition for review, then OAL may issue a determination. According to OAL, this program is informally known as the “Chapter Two Unit,” or “CTU,” because OAL’s regulations regarding underground regulations are found in California Code of Regulations, Title 1, Chapter 2. The OAL website provides information on underground regulations and how to submit a written petition to OAL alleging an underground regulation.

OAL’s review of an alleged underground regulation is limited to a 3-step analysis to determine whether the alleged underground regulation must be adopted as a regulation pursuant to the APA. First, is the policy or procedure either a rule or standard of general application, or a modification or supplement to such a rule? Second, has the policy or procedure been adopted by the agency to either implement, interpret, or make specific the law enforced or administered by the agency, or govern the agency’s procedure?

If the answer to these two questions is “yes,” then the challenged rule is a regulation. However, before a determination is complete, OAL must review the final step of the analysis. Has the policy or procedure been expressly exempted by statute from the requirement that it be adopted as a “regulation” pursuant to the APA?

If the answer to this final question is yes, then the underground regulation did not have to go through the APA process. However, if the answer to this last question is no, then the rule is an underground regulation and cannot be enforced by the agency or department. Instead, it must go through the formal rulemaking process pursuant to the APA.

Finally, readers should be aware of Government Code Section 11340.5(e) which provides that, if an interested person has already begun litigation challenging an underground regulation, a determination issued by OAL may not be considered by the court in that pending litigation. Those challenging an alleged underground regulation should determine whether they want to pursue OAL review of the agency action, or whether to go directly to court to challenge it.

How have California’s courts viewed underground regulations by the state’s rulemaking bodies?

Click to read full article on California Globe

Welcome Back Legislators. Now Stop Making So Many Laws


legislatureToday’s column is easy to write because I’m actually pulling up a column I think is worth repeating when welcoming legislators back to the capital. Don’t drown us with so many new laws. In fact, spend some time getting rid of old ones.

No one can possibly keep up with all the bills that actually become laws each year. Any idea how many new laws the California legislature put on the books over the past 52 years?

If you guessed under 60,000 you would be wrong.

According to an October release from the Senate Office of Research, 62,858 new laws have been added to the rolls since 1967. That averages over 1,208 laws a year under the governorships of Ronald Reagan, Jerry Brown, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson, Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, again.

Actually, the trend in lawmaking is going in the right direction—although it certainly has not gone far enough. Under governors Reagan, Brown (1.0) and Deukmejian, well over a thousand bills were signed into law each year. You have to go to the first year of Governor Wilson’s second term before you find less than a 1,000 bills enrolled, and it was close—982.

There was a stretch of 15 consecutive years when the 1,000 law mark was not breached from Gray Davis’s last year 2003, through the Schwarzenegger years, and the first seven years of Jerry Brown. However, this last year, Brown’s final one in office, 1,016 laws were enrolled breaking the streak.

But seriously, do the people of California really need so many laws to guide their lives?

Yet, woe be it to the business or citizen that ignores any of those laws. Especially with predatory attorneys lurking, looking for opportunity.

In many instances, new laws come with regulations and paperwork attached, which rob the affected parties, often businesses, of time to fill out the paperwork and keep up with the changing regulations while trying to run a business.

Here’s a suggestion this newly elected legislative class can do with its time. Eliminate some of the many laws on the books and focus on your non-lawmaking duties of managing the government efficiently an effectively.

Start with the DMV.

(Hat tip to Chris Micheli of Aprea & Micheli for directing me to the Senate Office of Research document.)

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California’s Legislators Lack Private Sector Experience


CapitolBack in the days of adding machines and manual ledgers, final election results in California were usually done by midnight on election day. Sometimes there would be a few precincts counting ballots into the wee hours of the morning, and you wouldn’t know a result till the next day. Fast forward to 2018, and the age of global interconnectedness, with instantaneous algorithmic management of everything from power grids to Facebook feeds, yet here in California the complete results of the 2018 midterms won’t be available until December 7th. Go figure.

While California’s ability to count ballots runs contrary to the otherwise dazzling march of progress, by now we have enough information to offer a pretty good look at California’s state Legislature for 2019-20. The Democratic supermajority has been re-established. With 28 confirmed seats in the Senate, and 56 in the Assembly, the Democrats hold 70 percent of the seats in both houses. Even if Republicans achieved the unlikely capture of all four Assembly seats that remain too close to call, nothing would change. Overall, so far there are 84 Democratic legislators, and only 32 Republicans.

How Many State Legislators Have Private Sector Experience?

Three election cycles ago, a California Policy Center analysis compared the biographies of California’s state legislators, asking how Republicans and Democrats differ in terms of what they did before they became politicians. To repeat this exercise, 2018 election results were obtained from the California Secretary of States “District Races” page for the Senate and the Assembly. For incumbents who were re-elected, biographies were obtained from the Senate and Assembly websites. For newcomers, a trip to Wikipedia, Ballotpedia, or their campaign websites was sufficient.

When one considers the professional background of California’s politicians, a clear pattern emerges. And while compiling this data requires some degree of subjective interpretation, no reasonable interpretation would fail to reveal dramatic differences in experience between Democrats and Republicans.

California State Legislature, 2019-2020 Membership
Business vs. Government Background

As seen on the above table, in California’s 2019-20 state senate, 79 percent of the Democrats have no private sector experience. On the other hand, 58 percent of the Republicans had no public sector experience prior to running for elected office, although most of them ran for local offices prior to running for state senate. The same story applies with California’s state assembly, where 73 percent of the Democrats have no private sector experience, and 55% of the Republicans have at least some private sector experience.

Before continuing, it’s interesting from this perspective to compare this 2019-20 state legislature to the 2013-2014 state legislature. Back then the proportions were generally the same, but there were almost no Democrats – only five in both houses – compared to 14 of them today. Conversely, back in 2013 there were 25 Republicans who had an exclusively business background prior to holding elected office, compared to only 15 today. Over the same period, the number of Republicans with only public sector experience prior to holding office has more than doubled, from four back in 2013 to 11 today. Overall there are now even fewer Republicans – down from a paltry 36/120 six years ago to a vanishing 32/120 today.

California State Legislature, 2013-2014 Membership
Business vs. Government Background

What might explain this tepid drift to the center, at least in terms of more Republican state legislators with public sector experience, and more Democratic state legislators with private sector experience?

One explanation could be the open primary, which makes it less likely an extreme candidate will survive the general election. Another could be the decision made around 2010 by California’s beleaguered business community to start supporting pro-business Democrats. Finally, as Republicans in California fade further into irrelevance, the alliances and allegiances formed in public sector work offer Republican candidates with that background a better chance of electoral success.

Public Sector Unions Pick Public Sector Careerists to Run for Public Office

Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s there were plenty of pro-business Democrats, so called “Pat Brown” Democrats, who worked with Gov. Brown Sr. to build freeways, bridges, power plants, and the finest system of water storage and conveyance the world had ever seen. Those same Democrats cooperated with Republican Governor Reagan a few years later to build the finest public university system in the world. The opportunities available to California’s middle class were unrivaled. What happened to these Democrats?

The problems began in the 1970’s when public sector unions were allowed to form. Steadily acquiring political power through automatic dues deductions, they used taxpayer’s money to lobby for the interests of government workers instead of the interests of the people they serve. Increasingly, business-backed candidates started losing races to candidates backed by government unions. Almost invariably, unions backed Democratic candidates. The more powerful these union-backed candidates became, the more laws they enacted to further consolidate their power. Today government union rule in California is absolute.

The tragedy of unionized government is not merely that they have taken over California’s state legislature and nearly every city, county and school board in the state in order to pursue their membership’s interest above the public interest. It is that most elected officials no longer understand business. These union anointed elected officials come from government agencies, union bureaucracies, nonprofits, activism, and public education. Most of California’s legislators have never had to balance a budget, make a payroll, or convince a customer to voluntarily purchase a product so they could earn a precarious profit in a competitive market.

California’s lawmakers, to the extent they are elected with the support of public sector unions and to the extent they lack business experience, not only face a conflict of interests every time they have to deal with a reform that threatens the power of the unions. They are also less qualified to understand the financial and operational realities that apply in any  efficiently ran, productive organization, large or small. They are in over their heads.

To exemplify this, consider how California’s democrats are crowing over a $6 billion budget surplus. Compare that $6 billion surplus to the nearly half-trillion in bond debt that California’s state and local governments have piled up, including another $23 billion on Nov. 6th. Compare that $6 billion surplus to, by most reasonable estimates, the more than half-trillion in unfunded retirement benefits that are going to blow sky high in the next market downturn.

Hint. A trillion is a thousand billion.

California Should Reduce Legislature to Part-Time


Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

When the Legislature finally adjourned at the end of August, it again screamed the need for a return to part-time operations. The “reform” of the late 1960s that imposed a full-time gathering of busybodies in the Capitol was one of the state’s biggest mistakes.

Misguided voters passed Proposition 1A in 1966, the same year they put Ronald Reagan in the governor’s chair. The first thing the new full-timers did was pass a massive tax increase. Reagan had campaigned against any tax increase. He broke that pledge and signed $1 billion in higher taxes, equivalent to something like $20 billion more today, the highest state tax increase in history.

Fast-forward to 2016 and the Legislature passed one absurd bill after another, many supposedly “helping” the poor, but actually hurting them. The farm worker overtime bill has been covered by my colleagues and I here at Fox and Hounds.

Another one was the cap-and-trade deal, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, which would “spend $900 million on programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions …. The money will go toward subsidies for electric cars, new park space and pedestrian-friendly affordable housing. California’s 4-year old cap-and-trade program raises money from businesses that purchase permits to pollute.”

Supposedly the “program” dedicates the money toward such allegedly pollution-reducing actions. But in government, all money is fungible. With legislative legerdemain, it would be possible to switch the $900 million to pay, for example, for some of the $250 billion in the state’s unfunded pension and medical care liabilities.

It also is absurd to think the state can reduce “greenhouse gas emissions” when, according to the Guardian, “1,500 new coal plants are in construction or planning stages around the world,” although only half might be built. “However, 84GW of plants (about 85 stations) were built in 2015 and new plants are being commissioned at five times the rate that old plants, such as those in the UK, are being retired.”

The electric car subsidies largely go to rich Tesla drivers, with the cost picked up by poor people forced to drive long distances in old cars because housing is cheaper away from the expensive, job-rich areas along the coast.

New parks might be nice, but why not let localities decide that? And how will the money be spent? Remember the parks scandal where the director, as AP reported, “sat on nearly $54 million in surplus money for years while parks were threatened with closure over budget cuts”?

But the most absurd part of the cap-and-trade flim-flam was “pedestrian-friendly affordable housing.” Where will poor people park their cars? Once again: Because coastal areas are prohibitively expensive, poor people either bunch up in homes, often illegally; live far from jobs and drive long distances; or sleep on park benches.

If the “pedestrian-friendly affordable housing” is erected in coastal areas, and the homes are nice, that’ll be another manipulation of housing prices – which always means overall higher prices. Take New York City – please. Massive subletting has led to spying on tenants. One supervisor just was fired for refusing to spy.

If the Rotten Apple just would end all rent control, money would flow in to build new apartments, the greater supply then would reduce overall prices. Oh, and rent control there was a “temporary” expedient during World War II. City politicians haven’t heard that Hitler blew his brains out 71 years ago.

Back to the part-time Legislature. An initiative last was advanced in 2012, but never made it to the ballot. And before that, in 2009, an analysis by Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor found, “Potential annual state savings of tens of millions of dollars.”

As they say in Hollywood: Time for a reboot. Ideal time: November 2018 ballot.

Longtime California journalist John Seiler’s email is: [email protected]

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Taxpayers to Pay Even More as Usual Legislative Allies Vote for Tax Hikes


tax signAs the final day of the legislative session dawned last week, taxpayers were cautiously optimistic. After all, we had already stopped the most direct threats to Proposition 13. Those included Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, which would have weakened the rules regarding how some properties are valued for tax purposes and Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8, lowering the two thirds vote at the local level for taxes and bonds. Another success was notched by derailing an eleventh hour effort to make it much easier to raise property fees by broadly redefining sewer service to include storm water runoff programs. While seemingly arcane, this would have exposed California homeowners to billions of dollars in new property levies without direct approval.

As for more debt, taxpayers should be pleased that two multi-billion dollar bond packages, on parks and affordable housing, failed to clear the Legislature.

Now for the bad news. On the last day of session, our tax-and-spend legislature hit California consumers with a new tax on car batteries by passing AB 2153. This $1 tax on consumers will be paid at the point of sale, as will a $1 tax on manufacturers to be passed onto consumers. After 2022, the $1 tax on manufacturers is added to the consumer total increasing it to $2, and the tax is made permanent. While the revenue generated purports to deal with legitimate environmental issues regarding battery recycling facilities, thanks to AB 2153 receiving a two-thirds vote, the money can simply go into the General Fund and be used for any purpose.

Under the category of illegal as well as foolish, the Legislature authorized local municipalities to spend public money for political campaigns. Beyond the obvious argument that taxpayers should not be forced to finance campaigns with which they might disagree, Senate Bill 1107 is also in direct violation of the Political Reform Act which expressly prohibits such financing. To avoid costly litigation over the validity of SB 1107, Governor Brown could do taxpayers a favor by vetoing this bill.

Speaking of illegal, Assembly Bill 1889 seeks to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on California’s showcase boondoggle, the High Speed Rail project. The legal problem is that access to the bond proceeds is conditioned on several requirements, including partial funding from federal and private sources, speed requirements and no public subsidies for operating expenses, none of which the High Speed Rail Authority can possibly meet. Again, in the absence of Governor Brown’s veto, litigation over sale of the bonds is a certainty.

From the perspective of fiscal sanity, it is a shame that every two year legislative session in California is an exercise in trying to prevent damage to taxpayers and the economy. Rarely is there anything remotely worthwhile in the hundreds of bills passed by our esteemed political leadership: No pension reform, no education reform, no civil justice reform or tax reform. While other states run clean, effective and efficient governments, the California Legislature resembles a three ring circus more times than not.

Unfortunately, it is not getting better. In the session that just ended, even some of our allies (or so we thought) cast horrible votes in favor of tax increases. As bad as things are, this November’s election could spell disaster for California’s beleaguered taxpayers. Tax hikes at the state level require a two-thirds vote of each house and we now know that a legislator’s proclivity to raise taxes does not necessarily depend on party affiliation. For taxpayer advocates, this is going to make our job of defending ordinary citizens in the Capitol much, much harder.

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.

This piece was originally published by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.