California’s Gubernatorial Candidates Need to Show True Grit

In a recent Facebook post, one of the many Republican candidates hoping to replace Governor Newsom had this to say:

“Californians can’t afford to make ends meet because Gavin Newsom and his allies keep raising taxes. We need to make our state more affordable for our middle class. I spoke to @EvieFordham [Fox Digital Reporter] about lowering the tax burden in our state.” Rah rah. This was a consultant approved message.

The problem with “lowering taxes” is that high taxes, and they are horrendously high, isn’t the biggest reason California has a punitive cost-of-living. Saying you’ll “lower taxes” is the irresponsible trope that Republicans and their billionaire backers (who, by the way, have now largely abandoned them) have been saying for decades. With Republicans, all we end up with is taxes increasing at a slower rate, while deficits increase at a faster rate. That’s our choice. It’s a false choice.

The biggest problem is not taxes, it’s regulations. Excessive regulations are the reason housing costs so much. Excessive regulations are the reason utility rates are so high. Excessive regulations are the reason good jobs are leaving California.

This actually does connect back to taxes, but taxes are the cart. Overbuilt government, seeking to justify its existence and feed for its prodigious mass, is the horse.

This is where California’s politicians could do something, if they had the will. And it’s what California’s insurgent candidates could at least make the focal point of their social media posts and public statements, if they had the courage.

Just imagine California with a governor bent on shrinking the state bureaucracy and reducing the size of the state government. The governor could issue an executive order to gut CEQA, since there’s plenty of Federal regulation already in place to protect the environment. An executive order could be used to reduce fees for all types of housing, not just the “low income housing” boondoggles that are nothing more than a giveaway to politically connected developers. An executive order could gut the provisions of AB 32 and SB 375 (etc.) that make it impossible to develop housing on open land. Don’t say this can’t be done. Newsom proved it can.

A governor with grit would instruct the California National Guard to construct homeless camps in the interior of California. One camp could go in North Los Angeles County, another camp could go east of the San Francisco Bay Area in San Joaquin County. They could be constructed using the same blueprint that governs refugee camp construction all over the world, and they could be sited on state or federally owned land. Homeless individuals could be moved into these camps within weeks instead of years, for millions instead of billions, with priority going to the drunks, the druggies, the crooks, and the crazies.

A governor with grit would explain that it’s not compassionate at all to leave these troubled people on the street. They would explain that heroin addiction is not a “lifestyle” and stealing is not a “poverty crime,” it’s a “crime.” Some of the billions that would be saved could be used to treat and train the people brought to these mass shelters. A governor with grit would fight every lawsuit and injunction that came their way, and would stay the course. Tens of thousands of people would get their lives back.

A persuasive governor with the support of the people could cajole California’s spendthrift legislature into spending money on infrastructure that matters. If California is destined to cope with another prolonged drought, then, for example, fix the Friant Kern Canal, and build the Temperance Flat and Sites reservoirs. Complete these projects in one term instead of taking three decades. The San Luis Reservoir, a twin to the proposed Sites project, was built back in the 1960s, and went from concept to being fully operational in six years. For that matter, the Golden Gate Bridge got built in three years. Three years.

A governor serious about developing resilience to “climate change” would talk about reviving the timber industry in order to thin the forests, create jobs, and instantly deploy crews (working for the timber companies, free of charge to the state and the PUC) to clear the fire roads and the powerline corridors, like they used to.

California’s gubernatorial candidates need to quit being a creation of consultants, focus groups and polling. They need to display an authentic edge, and match that to a comprehensive, controversial, and – most important of all – practical agenda. They need to promote this agenda without apology. Extreme environmentalists, sanctimonious tech moguls, and Hollywood celebrities are wrong. They’re wrong on the issues and their ideas are destroying the state. They are the reason nobody can afford to live here unless they’re either destitute and dependent, or independently wealthy.

Politicians that are serious about rescuing, reforming, fixing, or “compassionately disrupting” California need to prove they believe in ideas that have sharp edges. Build desalination plants. Call for more nuclear power plants. Approve safe fracking to tap California’s abundant and clean natural gas reserves. That will enrage the glitterati and the digerati. Too bad. It’s the right thing to do. There are millions of Californians that just need to hear this simple truth: If we shrink government and reduce regulations, the cost-of-living in California will become affordable again.

Abundance in all things cannot be achieved when a cabal of special interests have tied all development and enterprise up in knots. Similarly, practical infrastructure cannot be cost-effectively funded when literally dozens of government agencies and well funded litigators are able to delay projects for decades. Stand up to these special interests. Call them out. Recognize that their condemnation is the confirmation of your credibility. Lean in. Own it.

Last but hardly least, California’s gubernatorial candidates need to tell the teachers union that they will, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, fight them on the beaches, they will fight them in the streets, they will fight them in the hills, and they will never, ever quit. To offer just one of countless examples, proclaim loudly and often that AB 1316 issues from the pit of hell. And, of course, explain that the race and gender victim/oppressor model, the currency of the Left in general and the teachers union in particular, is both a profoundly destructive message and a conniving distraction from the true issue which is California’s punitive cost-of-living.

Aspirants to the governor’s office have been given a rare opportunity, thanks to an army of grassroots volunteers that collected over two million recall signatures. Respect this army, which speaks for tens of millions of Californians. Get serious. This isn’t business as usual. Show voters some grit. Words aren’t cheap when they trample on the pieties that are the instruments of genuine oppression. So let’s hear them.

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.

California Poised for Massive State Budget Spending Increases

Viewers of President Biden’s speech to Congress last week may have been struck by size of the trillions in new federal spending the President outlined in his speech.  In advance of the President’s speech, Democrats in the California Legislature had a message for Washington – hold my beer!

Assembly and Senate Democrats recently outlined their respective spending priorities in advance of the release of the Governor’s May Revise budget proposal.  As the competing plans show, the two houses are trying to one-up one another in seeing how many tens of billions they can spend.

Lawmakers currently estimate California’s budget windfall at $15 to 20 billion.  Speaker Rendon’s budget advisor Jason Sisney tweeted that this could be in addition to the $15 billion windfall projected by Newson in January.  None of these figures count the estimated $26 billion California stands to receive from the Biden stimulus plan.

In their “Build Back Boldly” plan, Senate Democrats say they are “embrac(ing) the once-in-a-generation opportunity to make bold transformative progress for the people of California.”  In this case, transformative progress means massive spending increases.  Here are some highlights:

  • The plan “takes a major first step and lays the groundwork for universal care and education for children ages 0 to 3.” The Governor’s Master Plan for Early Learning and Care estimates that its similar plan would cost between $2 billion and $12 billion.  As PRI’s Lance Izumi and Kerry McDonald wrote of universal government pre-school, “data do not support the call for increased taxpayer investment in government preschool.”
  • Launching a “$20 billion, five-year commitment to end the crisis and reduce homelessness” largely by increasing spending on acquiring motels and other new homeless housing. Wayne Winegarden, co-author of PRI’s new book No Way Home says that “instead of just throwing more money at the problem,” government “funding should be focused supporting non-profit organizations nationwide that are doing a much more effective job of addressing the individual needs of those living in homelessness than government ever can.”
  • It “makes a major $2 billion commitment to address and mitigate the impacts of drought,” but fails to include funding for water storage. As Steven Greenhut wrote in his recent PRI book Winning the Water Wars, lawmakers should prioritize “creating water abundance, rather than on having political fights over a declining water supply.”
  • The Senate Democrat plan would also “expand access to Medi-Cal to all income eligible Californians regardless of immigration status.” When previously considered by the Legislature, it was estimated to cost $163 million the first year, and $255 million the following year.  As PRI’s Sally Pipes told CALmatters in 2019, “it would make it even harder for those on the program to find a doctor and get care.”
  • It would also expand the state’s effort as car salesperson, it would “provide-up front funding to help the state reach its goal of 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025” through “$175 million per year for three years to support the state’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program.” As Wayne Winegarden documented in his study “Costly Subsidies for the Rich,” 79 percent of taxpayer-funded electric car subsidies are claimed by households making more than $100,000 per year.

Assembly Democrats call their plan a “budget of opportunity,” and outline four priorities:  preserving by restoring past budget cuts to favored programs, responding to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, protecting those most impacted, and “target(ing) stimulus to help Californians rebuild the economy.”

Signaling their willingness to reverse former Gov. Jerry Brown’s longstanding rule rejecting one-time funds for new, ongoing programs – a trend continued by Gov. Newsom – Assembly Democrats aim to “provide multi-year funding packages with one-time federal and state funds.”

The Assembly Democrat plan makes “affordable housing” a priority, which PRI’s Kerry Jackson says is “a distraction.” Arguing that what California needs most are homes of all types, he cites research from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s office showing that building new market-rate housing indirectly increases housing supply for all Californians, including low-income residents.

Gov. Newsom will put his stamp on the 2021-22 budget on May 10 when releases the May Revise, officially kicking off the sprint to pass the budget before the June 15 deadline.  Whatever form it takes, California is on track for the largest increases in both one-time and ongoing spending in recent memory as the final budget takes shape.

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s senior director of communications and the Sacramento office.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

There’s No Denying The California Exodus

With human migration, there is something called the “gate test.” If a nation opens its gates, do people come in or do they flee? With the Berlin Wall, it was obvious. Once the wall fell, there was a rush of humanity from East to West, not the other way around. The “gate test” applies to states as well.

The California gates are open and people are going, well, elsewhere. That fact was made abundantly clear this past week when Census results were announced and California lost a congressional seat for the first time in the state’s history.

As Assemblyman Kevin Kiley put it on Twitter, “We just lost a seat in Congress. If the California Exodus is a myth, apparently the Census Bureau is in on it.” In the last decade, 1.3 million more people left California than came in from other states. And, it’s accelerating. Half a million people have left for other states in the last two years alone.

Boosters of the status quo were quick to point out that California’s population actually grew overall, it just didn’t grow as fast as other states. But that misses the point.

Net domestic migration is a measure of movement among states. Unlike population, it ignores international migration as well as number of births over deaths. Two decades ago, policy leaders and the media started paying attention to the fact that California was trending toward net domestic outmigration. Governors from other states, most notably Rick Perry from Texas, were openly poaching businesses from California arguing, correctly, that their states were better for businesses as well as the people they employ.

To read the entire column, please click here.

California Democrats Propose $3.41 Billion Drought Spending Plan

Senate Democrats proposed a $3.41 billion spending plan on Thursday to fight the growing drought crisis in the state.

The drought, caused by lower precipitation this year, the mountain snowpack half what it usually is, high demand for water, and the state wasting many water resources, has spurred Governor Gavin Newsom to issue emergency drought declarations and has led to increased worry from urban residents, farmers, and environmentalists alike.

However, due to budget precautionary measures made in response to the COVID-19 crisis, California has brought in $16.7 billion more than expected so far this year. Combined with the $26 billion sent by the federal government, lawmakers decided that some of the money should be spent on the drought emergency.

“We live in an unprecedented time and I think we shouldn’t have unprecedented patience,” explained Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) on Thursday. “That’s very clearly happening throughout communities in California because we understand what’s at stake. We really have an opportunity now and we should take advantage of it.”

According to the proposal, the largest portion of the spending, around $1 billion, would go towards paying off the COVID-19 recession-caused accumulated debt of unpaid water bills in California. Around $500 million would go into trucking emergency water supplies and the building up of the water system to help connect different water systems to avoid droughts happening in different areas. Communities could get grants for as much as $5 million under the plan if they were tied to water reliability, water quality, and increasing water supplies.  Another $500 billion would go toward grants for homeowners and cities to replace grass lawns and medians with natural landscapes that don’t use as much water, as well as farm irrigation upgrades.

$600 million would go to ancillary water efforts, with $400 million of that to be spent on recycled water projects and stormwater management, with the rest going towards increasing the water supply through efforts such as groundwater recharge projects and ground water banking improvements. Fish and wildlife protection would get $285 million under the proposal, with much going into state water buyback programs to replenish the Sacramento and San Joaquin river valleys to save fish in those areas. Other funds would go to salmon monitoring programs.

Additionally, $350 million would go towards starting up Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) endeavors that would reduce groundwater pumping while also removing up to 1 million acres of farmland from being used because of the restrictions, with $75 million into technological water sensing improvements for better water and drought predictions in the future.

A $3.41 billion proposal

The $3.41 billion proposal would be funded from several different sources. $1 billion would come from federal COVID-19 relief funding, $145 million would come from reallocated California Water Commission funds that were intended for dam upkeep, and the rest coming from state tax dollars.

Governor Newsom and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) both indicated willingness to work with the Senate on their proposal through their own spending proposals that will be revealed in the next few weeks.

And, despite being received well by different organizations, such as the California Farm Bureau, many others have blasted the plan for putting much of the burden and sacrifice on the backs of farmers.

“We’ve been begging for more water for years,” explained Central Valley farmer Roscoe Flanagan to the Globe on Thursday. “They want to limit groundwater usage while also diverting even more water back into rivers. While  the irrigation improvement are a good step forward, the rest of this not only puts us two steps back, but it knocks us on our feet.”

“We need water, pure and simple. While money is nice to have, water is key here not only for our survival but for agriculture to survive as a whole.”

“A lot of this state’s fresh water is wasted. This bill doesn’t change that fact. Not the way I see it.”

The Senate drought proposal will likely be negotiated on in the coming weeks following the release of Governor Newsom’s budget proposal for next year.

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. 

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

San Francisco’s Substance-Abuse Crisis

The most important walk you can take in San Francisco is not to the grand Golden Gate bridge, down crooked Lombard Street, or to the brightly painted Victorians in Alamo Square. It’s to the city’s large and gritty sixth district, which contains the Tenderloin, Civic Center, and South of Market neighborhoods. What you’ll find there will shatter any preconceived notions about homelessness you might have heard from activists, city departments, and elected officials. You’ll realize that San Francisco doesn’t have a homeless problem—it has a substance-abuse crisis. And Project Roomkey, California governor Gavin Newsom’s hotels-for-homeless plan that he’s touting as a model for the rest of the country, won’t help any more than a band-aid will cure a cancer patient.

Block after block, you’ll see thousands of people who are barely alive. Some are alone; others are piled on top of one another, running into traffic, or standing slumped over, unconscious. They’ll be injecting or smoking heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine in front of you, unaware or unfazed by your presence. Scabs cover their faces and bodies, limbs are swollen red and blue, often bloody and oozing pus. You’ll notice the garbage, rotting food, discarded drug detritus, and feces surrounding them. A shocking number are mere teenagers, but many are old or have aged well before their time.

Your immediate reaction will probably be grief and horror. How can we treat our fellow human beings so cruelly, and how did we, as a society, allow things to get this bad? If we can’t admit these individuals into hospitals today, we should at least erect mobile hospitals to deliver critical medical, psychiatric, and addiction treatment before it’s too late.

Yet Newsom has declared that with programs like Project Roomkey, the United States can solve homelessness. To see the results of the program is to know what a bizarre claim this is. While a small portion of the unhoused are healthy enough to shift into and benefit from such housing, the vast majority are not—and their troubles won’t be alleviated by a hotel room.

San Francisco launched Project Roomkey last year, ostensibly as a way to thwart the spread of Covid-19. At last count, approximately 8,000 people live on San Francisco’s streets, and starting in April 2020, a few thousand were routed to leased “shelter-in-place” (SIP) hotels and motels. However, since so many were living outside as a direct result of substance use (or mental illnesses associated with or exacerbated by it), lethal drug activity flourished in and around the buildings.

Then came the body count. In 2020, San Francisco saw 713 fatal drug overdoses, mostly from fentanyl. Nearly three-quarters perished while isolated inside the hotel rooms and supportive housing provided by the city. Six died in the Hotel Whitcomb, a designated SIP hotel, in a single month.

The reason: Project Roomkey hotels offer no addiction-recovery treatment or mental health care. Nor is there a sobriety requirement. Residents do, however, get plenty of fresh needles, fentanyl foil, and other drug supplies, courtesy of the harm-reduction teams. As Dr. Hali Hammer of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health admitted in an April 2021 New York Times story on the city’s epidemic of drug fatalities, “What we as the public health department are responsible for is preventing death by giving people the resources they need to use safely.” The entire system erodes the desire and willpower to accept detox and rehab. It’s easier and less painful, at least in the short term, to use in a hotel.

Crime has also surged around the SIP motels and hotels, as people score from dealers just outside the lobbies. Shootings, robberies, and car break-ins have become commonplace, as have open-air drug use and sexual acts performed in broad daylight—an alarming change for neighborhoods like the Marina, which not long ago did not have a high population of unhoused, addicted people.

Now Project Roomkey is transitioning from leasing rooms in hotels and motels to purchasing buildings and converting them into permanent housing for unsheltered individuals. Funds are suddenly flowing for the program. FEMA offered partial funding, but earlier this year President Biden signed an executive order directing the federal government to reimburse program costs fully.

Newsom and San Francisco officials are aware that Project Roomkey does nothing to heal homelessness because the absence of a home isn’t the real sickness. The self-described experts will continue to blame income inequality, lack of affordable housing, or class and racial disparities. They won’t admit—at least not publicly—that the problem is almost entirely driven by addiction.

Meantime, the tide of people coming into the city, drawn by easy access to cheap, potent narcotics, will continue unabated. Some may get a hotel room, but most will become fixtures on the streets. Few, if any, will get better. Based on current projections, more than 1,000 people will die from overdose in 2021. Their descent will be both agonizing and inhumane.

It doesn’t have to be this way in San Francisco, in California generally, or across the United States. Funds allocated to programs like Project Roomkey should go toward providing vital medical, psychological, and addiction treatment to those in desperate need. Go ahead. Call it a pipe dream.

Erica Sandberg is a widely published consumer-finance reporter based in San Francisco. As a community advocate, she focuses on homelessness and crime and safety issues.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

Medicare for All Would Put Even More Strain on Doctors

Medicare for All is back on Congress‘s agenda. More than 100 House Democratsled by Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Debbie Dingell of Michigan, are behind a bill that would outlaw private insurance and enroll every American in a government-run health plan within two years.

They’re joined by a surprisingly large share of health care professionals. National Nurses United, Physicians for a National Health Program and the American College of Physicians—the nation’s second-largest doctors’ group—have all come out in favor of a government takeover of the country’s health insurance system.

Doctors have moved leftward. More now identify as Democrats than Republicans, according to Gallup. But they may want to think twice about embracing Medicare for All, which would slash their pay, wrap them in red tape and lead to worse care for their patients.

Under Medicare for All, physicians would have to accept Medicare’s rates for every single patient they see. Those payments would be much lower than what doctors currently receive from private insurers—40 percent lower, according to an analysis of a previous bid for Medicare for All championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would’ve put everyone onto government health care within four years.

That would have significant downstream effects on the supply of doctors. Smart young people won’t go into medicine if there are more remunerative opportunities elsewhere. Practicing doctors, meanwhile, might leave the workforce for better-paying gigs in, say, pharmaceutical research or the corporate world. Those near retirement might hang up their stethoscopes earlier than they otherwise would have.

One study estimates Medicare for All would lead to a nationwide loss of more than 44,000 doctors by 2050.

Our communities can ill afford to lose doctors. Already, there is expected to be a shortage of up to 139,000 doctors by 2033, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Medicare for All would wallop hospitals, too. Nine in ten would run consistent deficits under single-payer, according to research from FTI Consulting. Staffing cuts, consolidation and outright closures would follow.

People in wealthier locales might be fine. But patients in rural or traditionally underserved areas might lose the only health care facilities they have.

As demand for care outstrips supply, patients will suffer. An analysis published by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last year predicted “increased congestion in the health care system—including delays and forgone care” under single-payer.

The experiences of other developed countries with government-run health care should serve as cautionary tales.

For years, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service has been plagued by a chronic shortage of health professionals. Even though the government set a goal in 2015 to increase the number of general practitioners by 5,000 by 2020, the workforce actually shrank during that period.

Those still practicing within the U.K. health system are overworked. A recent survey found that one in ten physicians see 60 patients each day, twice the recommended limit. Three of the country’s leading health think tanks assert that, thanks to the shortage of clinicians, patients will have to turn to pharmacists and physiotherapists for care they used to get from doctors.

Medicare for All would dragoon doctors into the service of the state, which would expect them to work longer hours for less pay. Patients would be collateral damage.

For themselves, and those they care for, doctors would be wise to reject single-payer.

Sally C. Pipes is President, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All (Encounter 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

AB 1316 Aims to Destroy Charter Schools

Back in 2019, facing a barrage of legislation that threatened to destroy their institutions, advocates for charter schools reached a “compromise” agreement with lawmakers. The results were sweeping changes, expressed in SB 126AB 1505 and AB 1507, that mingled common sense reforms with measures that have made it harder than ever for charters to operate in California.

What happened in 2019 wasn’t really a compromise. It was a defeat, accepted in order to avoid an even bigger defeat. But that was then.

Today, in what officials at the California Charter School Association have characterized as “a blatant violation of the deal that we had from AB 1505 in 2019,” and “an existential threat to charter schools in California,” we now have AB 1316. Masquerading as a “transparency” reform, AB 1316 will decimate charter schools across the state.

Weighing in at over 31,000 words, the entirety of this expansive bill is designed to prevent any growth in charter school enrollment, attack home schools, defund online learning programs associated with charter schools, and force the closure of those charter schools that are unable to cope with the avalanche of new regulations.

Among the new rules will be a requirement for tutors to have teaching credentials. The thoughtless cruelty of this can only be explained in light of the underlying goal, which is to make it harder for charter schools to attract talent and effectively teach their students. There are retired and semi-retired professionals, often coming from STEM fields, that can walk into a classroom, pick up a syllabus, and deliver extraordinary, inspiring lessons to students. This sort of excellence is hard to find in a traditional public school where every instructor has to have a teaching credential.

Another worrisome feature of AB 1316, according to the California Charter Schools Association, will be to “prohibit multiple-track schools that offer additional instructional days than students would otherwise receive, and restrict instructional day flexibility for all charter schools that would negatively hurt at-risk students that require scheduling flexibility.” This amounts to putting a stop to the types of innovation and adaptability to student needs that are defining characteristics of charter schools.

AB 1316 also attacks charter schools by requiring them to only enroll students in counties where they’re located. Currently charters operate in regions, often straddling two or more counties. Under 1316 these charters would either have to apply and obtain permission to operate from every county in which they had even one student. AB 1316 would also cap total charter enrollment based on the size of the traditional public school districts where they are located. And it goes on.

The “transparency” provisions in AB 1316 call for new and duplicative auditing of enrollment and expenditures. These audits impose burdensome tasks on charter school staff, which typically – and laudably – do not suffer from administrative bloat. And to pay for them, AB 1316 calls for new fees on charter schools ranging from 3 to 5 percent of revenues. This is a significant amount considering that charters, which are public schools, already have to operate on less money than traditional public schools. A lot less money.

study just released in 2020 by a team of experts commissioned by the Reason Foundation looked at the disparity in per pupil funding between charter schools and traditional public schools across the United States. In Los Angeles County, where one in four K-12 students go to school in California, district per student revenue was $20,783, compared to charter per student revenue of only $13,488. On balance, charter schools already deliver educational outcomes that are as good or better than traditional public schools, and they do it with 35 percent less money. Now AB 1316 wants to expand that disparity by another 3 to 5 percent.

Perhaps the height of hypocrisy embodied by AB 1316 is the language that takes aim at remote learning. Based on the argument that it costs less to educate a student if you don’t have to provide a classroom, AB 1316 will reduce the per pupil reimbursement to charter operations that offer distance learning. Depending on how the formulas are applied according to this convoluted legislation, schools could see their per pupil revenue decline by as much as 30 percent for students they’re teaching remotely. But that’s not all.

In a brazen display of antipathy towards charter schools, AB 1316 does nothing to reduce the per pupil reimbursements, for remote learning, to which traditional public schools have access. This is a stunning failure to recognize that over the past year of COVID, while public schools shut down in-class instruction and made half-hearted attempts to implement distance learning, across the state the charter schools rapidly innovated and were able to keep most of their students on track.

There’s a lot more to AB 1316, but this reality – that distance learning is now a robust educational alternative, destined to attract increasing numbers of students into charter and home school networks – is the true motivation behind AB 1316. Written by politicians in the pockets of the teachers union, AB 1316 is designed to protect their monopoly grip on public education in California. AB 1316 must be opposed at all costs.

This article originally appeared on the website of the California Globe.

‘It’s a Promote-Carl Organization’: The Rise of Reform California

From the Voice of San Diego:

At the start of 2017, Carl DeMaio, the former San Diego councilman turned talk radio host, turned his attention from the city and county in which he had for years led conservative movements, and decided to assert himself in statewide matters.

He renamed his group Reform California, from Reform San Diego, and started building up its modest bank account.

The group finished 2016 with about $26,000 in the bank. Over the next year, the group and DeMaio would emerge as a statewide leader in California Republicans’ biggest push at the time – an effort to overturn the Legislature’s recent increase to the gas tax.

Reform California is a general purpose political committee, meaning it doesn’t exist simply to oppose or support a single candidate or ballot measure. The group raises and spends money on multiple issues at a time. DeMaio has a knack for guiding it to the issues at the center of the state’s conservative movement.

As the gas tax repeal heated up, and made the ballot as 2018’s Proposition 6, the idea wasn’t just that Republicans could defeat the tax increase, but that doing so would galvanize voters and be the rising tide to lift all the other Republican boats on the ballot.

It didn’t work out like that. Voters shot down the referendum, and Republicans across the state lost once-safe seats. But when the year ended, DeMaio’s group had put itself on strong financial footing. It ended the year with $405,000 in the bank.

Other conservative leaders across the state took notice that despite its leading role in the repeal effort, Reform California left so much money unspent.

“The thing about the gas tax is, it wasn’t just supposed to win, it was supposed to carry people with it,” said Anne Dunsmore, a long-time Republican political operative and a campaign manager for Rescue California, one of the groups leading the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. “It didn’t win, and we lost a lot of seats. I think that was the beginning of the end of his credibility.”

DeMaio and Reform California have again emerged as high-profile players in a major conservative cause – in this case, ousting Newsom. Up and down the state, conservative operatives are complaining that DeMaio is sucking up resources intended to remove Newsom to promote himself instead.

“You see this pattern over a six-year period where he makes all these promises, and it ends up in the campaign not using all the money, he has a profit and moves on to the next campaign,” said Jim Lacy, a lawyer whose firm focuses on election and nonprofit law focused on political advocacy. He was a California delegate to the Republican National Conventions of both 1976 and 2016. “That was ‘Yes on 6,’ which lost, and the funds he didn’t spend could have been precious help to pass the initiative.”

DeMaio and Reform California’s unofficial involvement in the recall comes fresh off a cycle in which his conservative critics thought they saw that 2018 dynamic play out again.

Last cycle, Democrats were coming together on what would become Proposition 15, the culmination of decades of efforts by teachers unions and others who wanted to reform the 1978 law Proposition 13 that had capped property taxes in California.

DeMaio again positioned Reform California for a central role in the formal opposition to that effort.

This time, DeMaio and the state’s conservatives were successful in defending one of their top priorities in California politics.

But when the year ended, DeMaio’s group’s bank account had only increased. It started 2021 with $650,000 in the bank – just as the recall effort was shaping up.

“Now, here he is reporting $600,000 in receipts, raised on the backs of kind-hearted conservative donors who I think have been misled,” Lacy said. “I’m happy to say misled, because I don’t mean in a legal sense – I mean it in a moral sense. I’m sure most money goes where it’s promised, but more than a margin of error has been held back, and has been diverted to pet projects and issues important to DeMaio.”

As Lacy suggests, Reform California is operating legally. Its official documents make clear that its donors are contributing to any of the causes it adopts, and its website keeps a running tally of the active campaigns in which it is engaged – whether recalling Newsom, recalling a school board member in the La Mesa-Spring Valley school district or pursuing an “election integrity initiative.”

“From a legal compliance standpoint, since its status is to influence multiple candidates and measures, it comes with the territory that they could have money left over that they could use on other races and issues,” said Austin Graham, legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center. “But I know if I were a donor to this committee and I knew that they hadn’t spent all the money I gave them for the reason I gave it, I’d feel at least dissatisfied, and wouldn’t want to give in the future.”

A spokesman for Reform California said the criticism misunderstands what the group is – its donors recognize that they’re supporting its general issue advocacy. Carrying a healthy reserve allows it to fund any project that comes up, and it can backfill the difference with new funds raised later.

“After reviewing the Voice of San Diego’s own IRS 990 disclosures, it should be noted that Reform California actually follows a prudent reserve policy that is very similar to the Voice of San Diego, and we track and allocate all funds we raise to programs based on direct donor interest and priorities,” said Dave McCulloch, spokesman for Reform California.

This year, for instance, Reform California has reported spending about $100,000 on the recall initiative.

But the chief proponents of the recall initiative, Orrin Heatlie and Mike Netter of Recall Gavin Newsom, said they’ve received very little help from Reform California’s $100,000 in spending.

“We really don’t know what their motivation is, and we don’t know what they’re spending donations on, or the degree of assistance they may feel they’ve given the recall itself,” said Heatlie. “But in reality if that money had come to the RecallGavin2020.com team we could have utilized it to a specific purpose to greatly benefit the recall. My thought is, the money is going to outside organizations or efforts that are not directly involved in the actual recall, that it diverts money away from the campaign into their own personal interest.”

Heatlie and Netter set up the recall initiative in a slightly unusual way. Most initiatives rely on paid workers who collect signatures on oversized petitions before submitting them.

The recall campaign, however, used a normal, letter-sized format for its petition, allowing it to promote the campaign online, with a link to a PDF that voters could print at home, sign and mail to a Sacramento P.O. box controlled by Heatlie and Netter.

Reform California, though, circulated a different PDF – one with its own address at the bottom of the petition, which meant voters would send signatures to the group directly. Since only authorized individuals can submit the petitions, Reform California would then send the petitions it received to Heatlie and Netter.

Netter said they received about 700 signatures from Reform California – 700 signatures they ended up not submitting at all, because they believed the address change on the Reform California petitions would lead the secretary of state to invalidate the signatures.

“Our mailroom still has them,” Heatlie said. “He provided no signatures, officially.”

Who receives the signatures is not a trivial detail, because voters who support the recall often include a donation with their signature. Heatlie and Netter said Rescue California estimated that it received on average $37 with each signature. If Reform California had the same experience, that meant it could have brought in about $26,000 from those 700 signatures that Heatlie and Netter never submitted.

Sarah Garcia, who organized volunteer efforts for the recall in Riverside, and drove around the county to pick up petitions, said she grew frustrated with DeMaio when she saw people congratulating him on Facebook, when Newsom acknowledged that the recall was headed for the ballot. It looked like stolen valor, she said.

“He hadn’t donated anything, or as far as I knew even helped,” Garcia said. “So I went back and said to him: ‘You did nothing, stop taking credit for it.’”

Reform California said that it sent out only one email blast with the altered address, and changed it back to the certified petition once asked. From there, neither it nor anyone else could say how many of the submitted signatures came from Reform California’s overtures, since the petitions were sent directly to the recall’s P.O. box.

Dunsmore said DeMaio has “been bitten by the small-donor fundraising bug,” using causes to grow his database of supporters, so he can raise more money from them on the next cause.

“He’s a taker,” Dunsmore said. “If he wanted to increase his name ID and position himself as a future party participant – fine – no one needs a bully, someone telling them what to do. We don’t need kingmakers. We need team players.”

One of DeMaio’s old colleagues in San Diego – the former strategist for his failed 2012 mayoral campaign – said there’s nothing surprising or new about how Reform California has handled the recall.

“It’s a promote-Carl organization,” said Jason Roe, who this year left California to run the Michigan Republican Party. “It doesn’t go to donors priorities. It goes to Carl’s priorities, or things that promote Carl. It’s hard to say what donors to Reform California outside of San Diego think. The educated donor class in San Diego sees this for what it is: to promote Carl’s priorities, not what’s good for Californians, or what’s good for conservatives.”

After Roe and DeMaio split, Roe became a chief strategist for DeMaio’s former Republican colleague on the City Council, Kevin Faulconer, during his successful campaign to become mayor.

Faulconer is now running in the recall election to unseat Newsom – and Reform California is actively campaigning against him. DeMaio launched the website FaulconerFailures.org to highlight his issues with his former colleague, calling him “weak, liberal and wrong for California.”

That active campaigning against someone many Republicans think is their best chance to win the governor’s mansion is part of the dissatisfaction with Reform California’s efforts.

“Those donors, they gave to ‘Yes on 6,’ did they authorize Reform California to use a portion of their money to do attack ads on Kevin Faulconer, to recall a Carlsbad councilwoman?” Lacy asked.

McCulloch said the political professionals criticizing the group are doing so because they sought work with Reform California but weren’t hired.

“We don’t answer to paid political consultants who have repeatedly demanded our business for years – even as recently as the past few weeks – and now they’re back making ridiculous claims because they didn’t get to line their pockets with their high commissions while delivering no real results,” McCulloch said.

DeMaio said the group exists to oppose the left.

“The left never sleeps in California and neither does Reform California,” he said in a statement provided by McCulloch. “Whether it is through our campaigns, litigation, or issue advocacy projects, our supporters expect us to be ready to go to war at a moment’s notice – and they appreciate that we’ve use every penny of their support to create a permanent, aggressive, and transparent campaign to take back California.”

The crosstown San Diego rivalry, though, is part of how DeMaio and his group rose to prominence statewide. Or, more specifically, the outsize success of San Diego Republicans elevated both DeMaio and Faulconer.

Faulconer’s prominence in the recall campaign stems from his time as the mayor of the largest city represented by a Republican in California. Prior to that, Republicans had not just held on to the mayor’s office in San Diego, they had won a series of political victories there as well. They had won, at least for a time, ballot measures to end pensions for most city employees, to ban mandatory project labor agreements for city projects, to require city officials to let private companies bid to run city services and to halt an attempt to raise the city’s sales tax. DeMaio was, by anyone’s estimation, a key figure in all of those efforts.

“There’s been a conservative vacuum in California for a long time,” Roe said. “And San Diego has been held up to the donor class for several years as a model that works for winning in blue areas. Victory has a thousand fathers, and as much as I despise Carl, I’ll agree that was about him being an asshole and bullying people into forming a coalition between the grassroots and the establishment. The structural model of how we did campaigns — the candidate does their thing, the Lincoln Club, the Chamber and affiliated groups do their thing, party does its thing — for the time we were doing well, we were more effective and efficient than the left. We were snipers, and they had shotguns. That model, when Faulconer started to get buzzed about, it was the San Diego model. There was a reputation that San Diego Republicans were doing something different, and Carl could credibly take credit.”

Credibly taking credit, he said, turned into Reform California.

“Carl figured out a way to monetize it,” Roe said.

Andrew Keatts is assistant editor and senior investigative reporter for Voice of San Diego. 

Water and Drought Deceit: More Dubious Policies California Lawmakers Continue to Perpetrate

Food or Fish, Liberty or Oppression, Victim or Fighter? We Californians have many decisions to make about our future.

In Climate Deceit and Dubious Policies California Lawmakers Continue to Perpetrate, we addressed unreliable solar and wind power, and China’s influence pushing electric vehicles and an all-electric grid on the U.S., and how this all started with AB 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which initially set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal into law.

Droughts and Water

While California’s drought conditions are actually historically normal, each of California’s droughts are billed by government and media as the driest period in the state’s recorded rainfall history. Scientists who study the Western United States’ long-term climate patterns say California has been dry for significantly longer periods — more than 200 years.

Droughts are nature’s fault; they are naturally occurring. Water shortages are the fault of government officials, and California’s water shortages fall squarely on former Gov. Jerry Brown, and now on Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The state of California hasn’t significantly invested in water storage since the 1970s when Jerry Brown was governor the first time around. “This is an era of limits and we all had better get used to it,” Brown said upon being elected governor in 1975, embracing the “small is beautiful” way of thinking. Since then, California’s population has doubled, as have environmental demands. And, more than fifty-percent of the state’s water resources are allowed to flow out the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean.

Rather than build the desperately needed infrastructure projects to collect and store water during the wet years, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in 2018 a new water conservation act that will limit each citizen to just 50-55 gallons of water per person per day by 2050.

The truth is that 50 percent of California’s water already goes toward environmental purposes. Of the rest of the water, only about 10 percent goes to “urban” uses for homes and businesses, and 40 percent is used by agriculture. A full 50 percent of the state’s water is used for environmental purposes.

As California farmer and water expert Kristi Diener recently explained, the state has been letting water out of reservoirs across California for months now. And it’s not going to farmers, growers, ranchers or urban use. Environmental policy says the water “flows” from reservoirs are necessary to produce a rebound of endangered Delta smelt and Chinook salmon. However, these policies are a failure as neither species have been collected in all of the latest trawling surveys, where they spend several days a month searching in more than 200 spots. This practice of releasing water and hoping fish improve, has been unsuccessful for nearly 30 years, according to Diener. Both species are close to extinction.

If the State of California didn’t allow billions of gallons of fresh water to spill into the Pacific Ocean every year, we wouldn’t ever face water shortages.

Democrat lawmakers and federal environmental regulators have authorized more than 81 billion gallons of water to flow out to the ocean, instead of being used for human consumption. This is environmental extremism at its worst, and it is killing California agriculture, says Diener. …

Click here to read the full article from the California Globe.

Pandemic Liability Claims Would Boost California’s ‘Lawsuit Tax’

Californians are well aware of the heavy tax burden they bear for living in the Golden State. We have the highest income tax rate, highest state sales tax rate and highest gas tax in the nation. But taxpayers may not be aware that they are also paying a $574 “lawsuit tax” each year. That’s the price of unnecessary litigation, added to the price of goods and services, that businesses must absorb to cover the costs of potential lawsuits.

When tort laws are misused, everybody pays for it. Lawsuit abuse is possible when state laws enable private lawyers to hunt for violations, file lawsuits and seek quick settlements. Business owners face a choice between the cost of the settlement and the even higher cost of a long legal fight in the overwhelmed court system. These needless costs add up, and they can ultimately result in closed businesses and lost jobs. Tort reform can help provide protection and relief for business owners from abusive shakedown lawsuits.

The cost of lawsuit abuse is revealed in a new study titled, “The Impact of Tort Costs and the Potential Economic Benefits of Tort Reform in California,” sponsored by Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA).

Regrettably, our political leadership has punted on this issue. It would have been helpful had the governor addressed pandemic liability early in the crisis. After all, he has signed 64 executive orders since declaring a State of Emergency on March 4, 2020.  And there have been over 400 suspensions or changes to state law during that span as well. But not one was related to legal protection for hard-hit businesses that faced volumes of ever-changing new rules and regulations.

To read the entire column, please click here.