DeMaio likes to attract attention. He has plenty of it from opponents. – Michael Smolens

Police and firefighter unions, Republican elected officials and others wage independent campaigns against radio talk-show host DeMaio in Assembly race

Carl DeMaio has crossed a lot of people in his various political endeavors. He’s being reminded of that daily in his campaign for the state Assembly.

The radio talk-show host is being opposed by a rare coalition that spans the political spectrum: labor unions, police and firefighter associations, Democrats, Republican elected officials, the state and local Republican parties, and even some real estate interests.

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The top financial supporters listed on one mailer attacking DeMaio include the California Professional Firefighters, California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the California Apartment Association.

At least five independent campaign efforts are aligned against him. DeMaio, a prolific fundraiser, has a substantial campaign war chest and is also benefiting from his statewide organization, Reform California.

DeMaio is running in the 75th Assembly District, a sprawling East County conservative district that almost certainly will elect a Republican, likely either DeMaio or Andrew Hayes, an aide to state Sen. Brian Jones, D-Santee, who has been endorsed by the Republican Party.

Incumbent Republican Marie Waldron is termed out this year.

A contested primary in a solid Republican district might not typically attract labor involvement but DeMaio changes that equation. Also contributing to the anti-DeMaio cause is the California Labor Federation, which is led by Lorena Gonzalez, who as a San Diego labor leader has clashed with DeMaio for years.

The Peace Officers Research Association of California is also spending money to defeat DeMaio. PORAC is headed up by Brian Marvel, the former president of the San Diego Police Officers Association who also has clashed with DeMaio.

DeMaio has been virulently anti-union and as a member of the San Diego City Council spearheaded a voter-approved ballot measure that did away with pensions for most municipal workers, except police officers, hired after July 20, 2012. The measure was overturned in court about a decade later and the city is now working to restore pensions to affected workers.

DeMaio envisioned that public employee pension bans would take hold across the state, but that never happened.

He also backed a related five-year pay freeze for city employees and restrictions on other benefits for employees, including police officers, that were not affected by the court rulings.

DeMaio maintained pensions were too generous and were bleeding money from government budgets.

He’s familiar with opposition from labor and said that doesn’t faze him. “I wear that with a badge of honor,” he said in an interview.

As for Hayes, DeMaio said, “This guy is backed by corrupt forces in Sacramento” — both Republican and Democrat.

Jones, who is the Senate Republican leader, is backing independent efforts for Hayes and against DeMaio. So are Waldron, county Supervisor Joel Anderson and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Bonsall. Issa defeated DeMaio in a contentious 2020 race for an East County-centric congressional district.

DeMaio also lost races for mayor in 2012 and for Congress to Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, in 2014 after serving one term on the City Council.

Clearly, DeMaio’s opponents don’t want him in the Legislature or, it seems, any other elected office. But their first order of business appears to be getting the lesser-known Hayes through the primary on March 5.

There are no guarantees in politics, but DeMaio seems poised to advance to November. He is being hit with negative mailers, contending he’s a “Never Trumper” and that he supported “defunding our first responders.”

In turn, DeMaio says he backs former President Donald Trump, and maintains Hayes is being propped up by Democrats and labor unions. Both have claimed they are the strongest on border enforcement and are the more conservative candidate. At times, they’ve mimicked Trump’s penchant for giving opponents derogatory names.

“‘Amnesty Andrew’ Hayes can’t be trusted on illegal immigration,” says one mailer backing DeMaio.

In a campaign release, Hayes accused “Crooked Carl DeMaio” of using donations to his Reform California committee for the Assembly race.

Beyond the attack pieces to dissuade Republican voters from supporting Hayes, DeMaio is making an appeal to Democratic voters, sort of. DeMaio’s campaign has been promoting the Democratic Party-endorsed candidate, Kevin Juza.

It’s an increasingly common campaign tactic to boost a perceived weaker opponent in hopes they will outdistance a stronger one in the primary.

The anti-DeMaio forces have responded in kind, though so far not in a big way. They made a small ad buy on Facebook to promote Democrat Christie Dougherty in an apparent effort to dilute the DeMaio-juiced Juza vote — which, in theory, could help Hayes.

This is becoming quite a tangled web.

Also running are Democrat Joy Frew and Republican Jack Fernandes.

Click here to read the full article in the SD Union Tribune

Gov. Gavin Newsom launches ads to fight abortion travel bans

The multistate campaign will launch Monday with a TV commercial about a measure under consideration in Tennessee.

Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday announced an advertising campaign to combat proposals in several Republican-controlled states to prohibit out-of-state travel for abortions and other reproductive care.

The multistate ad campaign and an online petition effort will launch Monday, beginning with a TV commercial about a measure under consideration in Tennessee. The so-called “abortion trafficking” bill sponsored by GOP state legislators would make it a felony offense for an adult to recruit, harbor or transport a minor to get an abortion without parental consent.

Newsom told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that similar restrictions modeled on a law that has already passed in Idaho are also being proposed in Oklahoma and Mississippi.

“The conditions are much more pernicious than they even appear,” Newsom said. “These guys are not just restricting the rights, self-determination to bear a child for a young woman. But they’re also determining their fate as it relates to their future in life by saying they can’t even travel.”

People who support the Tennessee measure say it could criminalize not only driving a minor to get an abortion, but also providing information about nearby abortion services or passing along which states have looser abortion laws.

Republican state Rep. Jason Zachary, who is co-sponsoring the proposal, has called it “simply a parental rights bill.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, anti-abortion advocates have pushed states to ban abortion and find ways to block pregnant women and girls from crossing state lines to obtain the procedure.

Click here to read the full article in ABC7

Words can mean life or death for ballot measures, including a November one in Santa Ana

Column: Attorney threatens the city with legal action over noncitizen voting measure, but not for the reasons you might think

Officials are notorious for sticking their thumbs on the scales as Election Day approaches. But how much is too much? It’s a question Santa Ana officials might do well to ponder.

We’re not talking Venezuelan manipulation of voting machines or fake ballots stuffed in suitcases or other fantastical flights of fancy here. We’re talking about the comparably mundane use of language, and how officials crafting ballot measures (and titles and summaries) can bless, or curse, an idea with words and words alone.

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A rose is a …

Remember the Republican-backed attempt to repeal gas taxes in 2018?

Drivers hated the gas tax and registration fee hikes (which aimed to raise some $5 billion a year for much-needed infrastructure work), but officials loved them. Proposition 6 would have repealed them and, like all statewide ballot measures, it had to traverse officialdom before reaching the great unwashed masses at the ballot box. When the Attorney General’s office wrote the title and summary for the measure, it didn’t simply say “repeals recently enacted gas and diesel taxes and vehicle registration fees.” It said, “Eliminates Recently Enacted Road Repair and Transportation Funding by Repealing Revenues Dedicated for Those Purposes. Requires Any Measure to Enact Certain Vehicle Fuel Taxes and Vehicle Fees Be Submitted to and Approved by the Electorate.”

Huh? Prop. 6 failed.

And who can forget all those pension reform attempts?

s the cost of generous public worker retirements gobbled more and more of state and local budgets, reformers circulated some pretty logical plans to get future costs under control. These plans would not have impacted current public workers; only workers hired in the future. But you couldn’t tell that from the title and summary from the AG’s office.

“Reduces pension benefits for current and future public employees … including teachers, nurses, and peace officers ….”

TEACHERS, NURSES AND PEACE OFFICERS?! Reformers went ballistic, calling the language “provably false or grossly misleading” — but, well, here we are, sans pension reform.

Enter now the extremely interesting measure from the city of Santa Ana for the fall general election that raises all sorts of tremendous questions.

Who votes?

On Nov. 5, Santa Ana voters will decide if noncitizens will get to vote in city elections.

The measure says, “Shall the City of Santa Ana City Charter be amended to allow, by the November 2028 general municipal election, noncitizen City residents, including those who are taxpayers and parents, to vote in all City of Santa Ana municipal elections?”

A conservative Orange County attorney threatens legal action over this — but not for the noncitizen voting part.

“‘Taxpayers and parents?’” said Laguna Niguel attorney James V. Lacy, one eyebrow raised.

Which is to say, just as no decent human being would claw pensions away from righteous teachers and nurses and peace officers, who’s going to deny righteous taxpayers and parents the right to weigh in on local governance?

Of course, Lacy points out, the measure would also allow non-taxpayers and non-parents — which is to say, just about exactly everyone of legal voting age — the right to vote on local governance. So the words do nothing except try to tip the scales in the measure’s favor.

“That language is jimmying with the ballot,” Lacy said. “It’s election interference.”

If “taxpayers and parents” isn’t dropped from the measure, Lacy — who served in the Reagan administration and has filed similar suits before — will ask an Orange County Superior Court judge to step in.

We asked the Santa Ana folks their thoughts. City spokesman Paul Eakins said the city attorney’s office will be providing an impartial analysis of the ballot measure at a later date, and referred us to the city clerk’s website for more election information at www.santa-ana.org/elections/.

No idle threat

Lacy has worked in this space before.

A few years ago, voters in San Francisco amended the city’s charter to allow noncitizen parents and guardians of school-aged children to vote in school board elections. Lacy took the city to court, citing Article II, Section 2, of the California Constitution: “A United States Citizen 18 years of age and resident in this state may vote.”

The city violated the constitution by allowing non-U.S. citizens to vote, he argued. The court agreed.

But the city appealed, arguing that the state constitution doesn’t expressly say “only” U.S. citizens may vote and doesn’t prohibit expanding the electorate to noncitizens. You might recall that, once upon a time in America, women were denied the vote, as were Black Americans and “natives of China.”

It’s important that San Francisco is a “charter city” — operating under its own voter-approved set of rules and regulations — as opposed to a “general law city,” operating under the general laws of the state. The appeals court reversed the lower court and handed the city a victory.

“(W)e agree with the City that the plain language does not restrict the Legislature’s discretionary power to expand the electorate to noncitizens,” the appeals court said. “(I)t makes sense to confer on charter cities the authority to expand the electorate where, as here, the city’s voters determine that doing so would better serve local needs. Conversely, where a charter city’s electorate determines expanding the electorate would not serve its local needs, it need not do so.”

Down the road, Lacy fears Santa Ana’s measure would dilute the voting power of minority citizens, thus running afoul of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Santa Ana is 77% Latino, 12% Asian, 9% White and 1% Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The overwhelming majority of noncitizens are presumed to be Latino.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Adam Schiff breaks his Fox News boycott

Schiff, a Burbank Democrat, has started running TV ads on Fox News to supercharge his U.S. Senate campaign.

California Rep. Adam Schiff has used his perch as a hero of the MAGA resistance to implore advertisers to boycott Fox News.

Now a candidate for the Senate, Schiff is violating his own entreaty. On Saturday, the Burbank Democrat will begin running TV ads on Fox.

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Schiff’s ad buy is the latest in his deluge of spending to fortify his frontrunner status in the March 5 primary, and, possibly even clear a path to the Senate.

Schiff has spent millions to promote Republican Steve Garvey and box out fellow Democrat Katie Porter. A pro-Schiff super PAC also is running ads on Fox News intended to boost Garvey.

But the Schiff ads run counter to his boycott plea just last year as part of a sweeping indictment of the network’s brass and hosts as “shameful.” Schiff at the time said his boycott applied to Fox News and all other “stations that deliberately put out lies and deliberately undermine our elections.”

Schiff’s decision to steer his donations to Fox is an acknowledgement that the potential Garvey voters he’s hoping turn out in the primary are squarely in the network’s target demographics. A Schiff campaign spokesperson did not directly address the boycott, but defended his decision to spend money on Fox.

“It’s important for California voters — no matter what TV channel they tune into — to know what’s at stake in this election,” Marisol Samayoa told POLITICO. “We’ll continue to bring our message to voters across the Golden State.”

Click here to read the full article in Politico

New Poll Finds Trump Leads Haley By Massive 64%-17% Margin in California Republican Primary

‘Trump has a big donor base in California, much bigger than people realize’

According to a new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Poll released on Thursday, former President Donald Trump has a massive lead over former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, with California’s massive number of delegates likely to go to Trump on Super Tuesday.

The poll found that a massive 64% of California Republicans would back Trump in the primary, with only 17% backing Haley; 14% currently have voters wanting other candidates despite Haley and Trump being the last two candidates left in the race. A further 4% said that they wouldn’t vote in the primary with 1% currently undecided.

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“Trump’s support is at 75 percent among conservatives and is similar among men (65%) and women (62%),” the PPIC said in their breakdown. “Support for Trump is at 48 percent among college graduates and is at 67 percent among those 45 and older. When asked how they would vote when the choice is between the two remaining Republican presidential candidates, 69 percent say they would vote for Trump and 29 percent would vote for Haley, while 2 percent would not vote in the Republican primary.”

The PPIC poll is on par with the current 538 aggregate projection on the California Primary, which only factors in Trump and Haley as candidates. According to that projection, Trump is currently estimated to get 73% of the vote and Haley around 19%. Both the PPIC poll and the 538 California projections show Trump coming in slightly below the national Republican primary voter average of just under 77% in favor of Trump and 15.6% in favor of Haley.

Trump trumps Haley

The PPIC poll also showed that President Joe Biden is also currently leading Trump in the November presidential election in California. Biden is currently polling at 55% according to the poll, with Trump at 32%, other candidates at 10%, and 3% remaining undecided. When compared to the final 2020 percentages in California, Biden is currently polling well below his final 63.4% showing from the last election, with Trump only down roughly 2% from 34.3% in 2020. However, Trump is also currently up from his 2016 showing in California, where he received just above 31% of the votes in the state. With a large percentage of voters still open and Biden’s 39% approval rating actually being several points behind where Trump’s approval rating was during the same time in his presidency in 2020, Trump could get a higher percentage of Californian voters than he did in 2020.

“When it comes to California, the consensus is that Trump will win the GOP primary hands down, but will lose to Biden. Shocker, right?,” said Michael Springer, an elections analyst in Washington who focuses on presidential primaries. “But this poll was pretty interesting. For Trump, even with the multiple lawsuits and everything going on with him right now, he is still polling just about as well as he did in 2020 in California. It’s still not enough to send Democrats there into any sort of panic, but if Trump polls above his 2020 total and does better against Biden in blue California than he did 4 years ago, that is going to speak volumes of how how people are perceiving Biden.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Coupal: A bold idea for California: Instead of passing so many new laws, how about some oversight over existing ones?

The reaction from politicians to California’s budget deficit – now estimated by the Legislative Analyst to be around $73 billion – breaks down into two camps: the state must either reduce spending or find more revenue. (Euphemism for raising taxes.)

In reality, even the most progressive legislators realize that their dream of unending growth in government is crashing headlong into reality. Days ago, Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas acknowledged that the ultimate goal of single-payer health care won’t be on the table anytime soon.

Of course, any reduction in spending will be accompanied by the obligatory gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair. It is easier to extract a sirloin steak from the jaws of a Doberman than to get politicians and government bureaucrats to reduce their record levels of spending. To the tax spenders, all government spending is “essential,” notwithstanding the fact that state spending has doubled in six years.

Ordinary Californians reject the premise that all state spending is “essential” and, in fact, think much of it is superfluous and wasteful. A Public Policy Institute of California survey earlier this month asked, “Do you think . . . state government[s] waste a lot of the money we pay in taxes, waste some of it, or don’t waste very much of it?” Overall, 45% of Californians perceived that “a lot” of their money was being wasted and 46% believed “some” of their money was wasted.

Specific examples abound. If the High-Speed Rail project were put before the voters after its 14-year history of broken promises, polling reveals it would be derailed. And volumes could be written about the $30 billion in EDD fraud.

An excellent exposé in CalMatters by Sameea Kamal and Jeremia Kimelman reveals the massive non-compliance with legislative mandates regarding the preparation of reports that are supposed to track the effectiveness of government programs. The title of the article is “Legislators wanted 1,100 reports on how California’s laws are working. Most haven’t arrived.”

When it creates a new program, the Legislature frequently requires the affected state or local agencies to prepare a report back to the Legislature about the performance of the new program. The purpose, according to the Legislature itself, is to “provide crucial oversight to ensure effective implementation of programs.”

But according to CalMatters, “more than 70% of the 1,118 reports due in the past year were not submitted to the Office of Legislative Counsel, the public repository for the reports . . . And about half of those that were filed were late. (About 230 were reports required from multiple agencies.)”

The absence of reports on the efficacy of past legislation makes future legislation like a journey into the unknown. CalMatters correctly contends that the “reports could be used to avoid introducing duplicative or unnecessary bills.” But a more fundamental purpose would be to determine which laws or programs should simply be repealed or abandoned entirely.

Compounding the problem of missing reports is that there is little data about which reports are simply late and that there is little notice when they are completed. The lack of a coherent process for tracking legislatively mandated reports is why, according to CalMatters, “some lawmakers and consultants . . . don’t often use the [Legislative Counsel] website,” relying instead on alternative sources of information.

In theory, California has multiple avenues for conducting oversight. The California State Auditor produces a number of useful reports, including a periodic report on “statewide issues and state agencies that represent a high risk to the State or its residents.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

California says gas prices could spike 50 cents a gallon next year thanks to this climate program

A nearly two decades-old program to slash climate-warming emissions from transportation could cause California gasoline prices to spike as much as 50 cents a gallon in the next two years.

That’s according to staff of the state’s leading air quality regulator, who provided the estimate ahead of that agency’s decision to strengthen the program created to discourage gasoline and diesel production in favor of cleaner alternatives.

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Their drastic projection comes amid growing concerns about fuel and energy costs related to California efforts to phase out fossil fuels. Already burdened drivers can expect to see gas prices hit $5 a gallon this spring, and electricity bills also are expected to rise.

“I was shocked to see it,” said Danny Cullenward, a climate economist and advisor to the state. “A 50-cent increase in the price of fuel is not a small thing.”

California Air Resources Board staff projected the price jump in a key report last fall, saying proposed reforms to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) would raise costs for the gasoline and diesel production companies that could get passed on to drivers.

In what they called an upper bound estimate, air board staff estimated that gasoline prices may jump by an average of $0.47 next year and $0.52 by 2026. They said diesel prices could increase by $0.59 this year and $0.66 in two years.

Over the long term, they found that gasoline prices could increase by $1.15 per gallon and diesel by $1.50 per gallon from 2031 to 2046. They also projected a $1.21 jump in jet fuel prices.

Air board staff have since downplayed their gas price hike projections, calling them “narrow and incomplete” in a December report. Instead, the agency has focused on cost savings to drivers across the economy as more people make the switch to EVs.

“CARB staff estimates the amount of money Californians spend on transportation costs across all vehicle classes could be up to 42% lower in 2045,” air board staff said this week in FAQs about the standard’s impact on fuel costs.

The LCFS was created in 2007 by then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels and encourage low-carbon alternatives. The first program of its kind, it has since been adopted by other governments, including the European Union.

It operates a system of monetary rewards and fees called “credits” and “deficits.” Producers of less carbon intensive fuel — such as biofuel, ethanol and biomethane — sell those credits to gasoline and diesel producers who rack up deficits.

Click here to read the full article in Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

Powerful women are backing a man for California’s Senate seat

Last weekend in Long Beach, Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine met with voters at a small rally in the back patio of Lola’s Mexican Cuisine. It was one of many stops she’s making around California as she campaigns for the U.S. Senate seat that was recently held by the late Dianne Feinstein.

“If one of Katie’s male opponents wins in November, that will be the first time in more than 30 years that California does not have a woman representing us in the Senate,” Democratic Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine) said as she introduced Porter.

Boos rang out from the crowd.

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This was a scene my colleague Benjamin Oreskes witnessed on the campaign trail in the final weeks before the March 5 primary. It points to an unanticipated undercurrent of California’s Senate race.

Though California made history in 1993 as the first state to elect two women to the Senate, the state’s streak of female representation may come to an end after this year’s election — and, Oreskes reports, women appear to be a leading reason.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), one of the most powerful women in California and national politics, has endorsed Porter’s male opponent, Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank). So has former Sen. Barbara Boxer, who served alongside Feinstein for nearly a quarter century after they were elected in the first “Year of the Woman.” More than half the women in California’s congressional delegation also back Schiff. And recent opinion polls show Schiff leading the field among female likely voters.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

California voters will decide on Newsom’s mental health overhaul. How did we get here?

Fallout from our state’s long history of breaking promises to people with serious mental illness is everywhere.

It can be found under our overpasses and in our tent encampments, but also inside our jails and prisons, our emergency rooms, our schools, our homes.

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It flashes across our public opinion polls, which repeatedly list mental health as a top concern.

Increasingly, it makes its way into our political discourse. Referencing “our broken system,” Gov. Gavin Newsom in recent years has rolled out mental health policies with dizzying speed.

Now he’s promoting Proposition 1, a two-pronged March ballot measure that would fund a $6.4 billion bond for treatment beds and permanent supportive housing, while also requiring counties to spend more of their existing mental health funds on people who are chronically homeless. 

The measure makes promises of its own. 

“These reforms, and this new investment in behavioral health housing, will help California make good on promises made decades ago,” Newsom has said.

What are the promises that California has made to people with mental illness over the years? And why are so many people still suffering?

Here’s a brief timeline of mental health policies in our state—of promises made and promises broken—during the past 75 years.

1950s & 1960s: An era of institutionalization

In the 1950s, it is relatively easy to force people into state mental hospitals, many of which have horrific conditions. The number of patients peaks in the late-1950s, at approximately 37,000. During that time, the state starts shifting control over mental health services to counties, embarking on the process of deinstitutionalization. This process accelerates in the late 1960s with the passage of the landmark Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, a law designed to protect the civil rights of people with mental illnesses.

1954: The federal Food & Drug Administration approves Chlorpromazine (Thorazine), the first antipsychotic drug, to treat people with serious mental illnesses.

1957: The California Legislature increases funding for community mental health under the Short-Doyle Act, aiming to treat more people in their communities instead of in state hospitals.

1963: President John Fitzgerald Kennedy signs the Community Mental Health Act, promising federal leadership to build and staff a network of community mental health centers. Less than a month later, he is assassinated. Many of the clinics are never built.

1965: Congress creates Medicare and Medicaid, allowing people with mental illnesses to receive treatment in their communities.

1967: Then-Gov. Ronald Reagan signs the Lanterman-Petris-Short law limiting involuntary detention of all but the most gravely disabled people with mental illness and providing them with legal protections.

1970s & 1980s: California tax revolt leads to austerity

As state mental hospitals close in the 1970s, many people with serious mental illnesses are moved into for-profit nursing homes and board and care homes. Their numbers on the streets and inside jails and prisons begin to rise. The 1980s sees significant funding cuts for mental health services at both the state and federal levels.

1978: The Community Residential Treatment Systems Act seeks to create unlocked, noninstitutional alternatives for people with mental illness throughout California.

The same year, voters pass Proposition 13, capping property taxes and reducing the amount of money available to counties for a variety of services, including mental health.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

California lawmakers seek to short-circuit new income-based utility charges

GOP and Dems eye plans to overturn hastily approved billing scheme

OAKLAND — Multiple efforts are underway on both sides of California’s political divide to short-circuit a 2022 law that would impose new income-based fixed fees on customers of PG&E and other utility leviathans.

Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature have crafted separate measures designed to quash a plan to implement the fee that lawmakers hastily approved in an 11-hour proceeding.

PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric would be able to impose the new charge on their customers if the state Public Utilities Commission gives the plan a final OK — potentially by this spring or summer. Newsom, who signed the bill, appointed all five current members of the powerful commission.

RELATED: PG&E profits hop higher as revenue from electricity and gas surges

The legislative efforts seek to either overturn or drastically alter the 2022 law, AB 205, a wide-ranging energy bill including a one-sentence provision that directed the utility commission to study income-based fixed charges and then decide on their implementation by no later than June 30 of this year.

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The provision in the legislation was intended to help encourage a transition to greater electrification and energy conservation in California as part of a shift away from reliance on fossil fuels, along with making utility bills more affordable for low-income customers. Critics, though, warn the bill might actually produce higher monthly bills.

The state lawmakers involved in the various efforts to overturn the income-based utility charge plan include Assembly Democrats Marc Berman of Menlo Park and Jacqui Irwin of Thousand Oaks, and Senate Republican Brian Dahle, Shannon Grove, Janet Nguyen, Roger Niello, Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, Kelly Seyarto, and Scott Wilk.

What’s more, 22 state lawmakers wrote to the utility commission’s president in October warning that the powerful California regulatory agency might be racing too quickly — and with no public input — to decide on the income-based fees.

“At a minimum, more time will be needed to consider such a significant and far-reaching change in policy that will significantly impact ratepayers with only a theoretical benefit,” the lawmakers wrote.

Several experts led by Ahmad Faruqui, an economist who has consulted with all three of the utility behemoths, have provided an array of reasons that regulators should reject the current proposal, including the fact that PG&E bills are already rising far faster than the Bay Area inflation rate.

“The proposed fixed charges are way too high compared to the national landscape,” Faruqui and the group of economists wrote. “The fixed charges will be burdensome for many, infeasible to administer, are likely to be challenged in court and are likely to unleash adverse unintended consequences, such as penalizing customers who use energy efficiently and frugally.”

Advocates for Income-based fees, including The Utility Reform Network (TURN) and the National Resources Defense Council, say that higher-income customers will tend to pay more, while lower-income customers will pay less. Proponents also claim that PG&E and the other utilities intend to lower the kilowatt-hour rates they charge customers as a way to offset the fees.

Even so, TURN and the environmental group concede that fixed fees are far from a complete solution. Despite their support, the groups wrote in a filing with the state that they recognize “the development of a progressive fixed charge does not represent a silver bullet and will not, on its own, make customer bills affordable.”

State lawmakers are increasingly alarmed about the income-based fee proposal.

“Too many Californians struggle to afford their electricity bills at a time when energy is already unreliable, and yet the legislature thought it was a good idea to rip people off more,” Wilk, a Santa Clarita Republican, said in a prepared release this week.

The fixed-income proposal has surfaced at a time when PG&E bills, along with the bills charged by the other two utility titans, have skyrocketed.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News