California lawmakers divided over long waits at DMV offices

dmvLong wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles were the subject of continued controversy Wednesday at a Capitol hearing and at a campaign event where Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox said the problem has been mishandled.

The Assembly Budget Committee voted 15 to 10 Wednesday on a budget bill that allows the DMV to pursue an additional $26 million to speed up the processing of licenses at field offices. But the agency must justify any request in writing and provide a monthly report on how money is being spent.

“It’s absolutely appropriate that we continue to follow up and understand how these resources are deployed so that these wait times, which are a statewide issue, can be addressed across the board,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the committee’s chairman.

The budget bill was opposed by a bloc of Republicans, including Assemblyman Jay Obernolte of Big Bear Lake, who said DMV officials last week could not satisfactorily explain what they plan to do with $16 million that was provided earlier this month. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Dems in danger of botching California’s ‘jungle primary’

“Welcome to the jungle. It gets worse here every day.” – Guns N’ Roses

The California primary next Tuesday could serve as a sentinel indicating whether the House of Representatives is truly in play in the midterms.

But of late, Democrats are struggling in the Golden State. And if they can’t deliver in next week’s contests, their shot at reclaiming the House could suffer a major setback.

It starts in the “jungle.” More specifically, California’s “jungle primary.”

California conducts a “top two” primary system. A “jungle.” That means a pair of candidates – regardless of party – matriculate to the general election in November. It’s not guaranteed that there will be one Democrat and one Republican to emerge Tuesday and face one another in autumn. It could be a Democrat and a Republican. Or it could be two Democrats. Or, it could be two Republicans. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

Corporate Tax Increase Would Stifle Economic Progress in California

Shortly after Governor Jerry Brown proposed a state budget that includes record reserves, the state controller reported that revenue is beating projections by a healthy margin, and state officials announced that California’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level since the current record-keeping format was adopted 42 years ago.

In short, this is the best fiscal shape that California has been in for many years.

The revenue boom is particularly good news, as it provides funding to improve critical programs and services without increasing tax rates.

The state government’s total revenue for January was $2.37 billion (15.8 percent) more than estimated in the governor’s 2018-19 budget proposal. Personal income tax revenue in January was $2.25 billion (16.9 percent) higher than projected, and corporate income tax revenue was $211.3 million (62.1 percent) higher than projected.

Unfortunately, several state lawmakers have come forward with proposals that would throw a wet blanket on this progress by discouraging businesses from hiring and making investments in California.

taxesOne of the worst offenders is Assembly Constitutional Amendment 22, which proposes one of the largest tax increases in state history – a plan that would hit California employers with the highest effective corporate tax rate in the United States. The measure would impose a 10 percent tax on many employers, in addition to the existing state corporate tax rate of 8.84 percent, in effect imposing an 18.84 percent tax on employers. California already has the highest corporate tax rate among the Western states, but ACA 22 would give California the highest rate in the entire country, thereby increasing the incentive for our businesses to take their jobs and operations to other states.

Why would anyone consider a tax increase that would put the jobs of more Californians at risk? Why would anyone propose a tax increase when tax revenue already exceeds expectations?

Supporters of the tax hike say it’s no big deal because California businesses will benefit from federal tax reductions, so a tax increase would be “revenue-neutral.” This political spin fails under even the most cursory examination. If California negates the benefits of federal changes, and the other 49 states don’t, businesses will move to the states that aren’t trying to neutralize them.

Even without the tax hike, our tax structure places California at a significant disadvantage in the worldwide competition for jobs. Many businesses have left, and others are packing up the moving trucks.

For example, as the Golden State promotes the use of electric vehicles, a major manufacturer of lithium batteries is in the process of leaving Riverside and taking its work to the Appalachian region of Kentucky. The Associated Press reported in December: “EnerBlu Inc. announced it will invest $372 million and create 875 full-time jobs in eastern Kentucky with the production facility in Pikeville. The company also will move its headquarters from Riverside, California, bringing another $40 million investment and 110 administrative, research-and-development and executive jobs to Lexington, Kentucky’s second-largest city.” The plant will manufacture rechargeable batteries used in transit buses, trucks and other vehicles.

California workers losing green jobs to Kentucky? There couldn’t be a clearer sign that California needs to improve its business climate. At the very least, we should be wary of anything – like a massive tax increase targeted directly at California employers – that would jeopardize our recent economic improvements.

CalTax Legislative Advocate.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California Democrats temporarily lose Assembly supermajority

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Democrats will be without a supermajority in the Assembly for months and risk losing the two-thirds edge needed to pass tax and fee increases in the Senate.

When lawmakers return in January, they will have two vacant Assembly seats that won’t be filled until at least April after Los Angeles members resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations. In the Senate, a member in a competitive district is facing a recall over his support for a gas tax increase and another could face pressure to resign depending on the results of a misconduct allegation.

“It will certainly affect votes,” said Democratic Assemblyman Ken Cooley, chairman of the rules committee.

Supermajorities were needed this year to pass the gas tax increase and reauthorize the cap-and-trade program. Passing a budget only requires a simple majority.

Although the changes cut into the Democrats’ legislative power, tax and fee increases are less likely to come up for votes in election years because they can be unpopular with voters. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press

GOPers who backed ‘cap and trade’ likely to face more fallout

Brian DahleChad Mayes of Yucca Valley is out as Assembly Republican leader, replaced last week by Assemblyman Brian Dahle of Bieber. But the fallout may continue over the decision of Mayes and six other GOP Assembly members to provide Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, with the votes necessary to save the state’s cap-and-trade program on July 17.

Mayes touted the GOP support as helpful in rebranding the party with young voters worried about climate change and emphasized the concession he won from Brown and Rendon, which could make it possible for the Legislature to effectively scrap the state’s troubled high-speed rail project in 2024. But the votes infuriated many Republicans for betraying the party’s core anti-tax, anti-regulation beliefs and for allowing a handful of Assembly Democrats in swing seats to avoid having to vote to extend cap and trade until 2030.

Under the program, businesses buy permits for emission rights. Because of fears that courts would find the permit fees were tantamount to taxes, Brown wanted two-thirds votes in the Legislature to ensure cap and trade’s extension would be on solid legal ground under Proposition 13. Thanks to the votes of Assembly Republicans Mayes, Catharine Baker of San Ramon, Rocky Chavez of Oceanside, Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo, Heath Flora of Ripon, Devin Mathis of Visalia and Marc Steinorth of Rancho Cucamonga, Brown got 55 votes for the extension, one more than he needed.

Harmeet K. Dhillon, a San Francisco lawyer who is one of the state’s members on the Republican National Committee, told the Los Angeles Times that Mayes shouldn’t be the only one held accountable for preserving cap and trade.

“Now, given the fact that six of these [Republican lawmakers] did vote for a massive tax increase, Republicans are going to be very vigilant about these issues,” she said. The state GOP voted earlier this month to ask Mayes to step down at Dhillon’s behest.

Another RNC state delegate – former state GOP chair Shawn Steel – also blasted Republicans who sided with Brown on cap-and-trade.

Mayes, Baker, Chavez, Cunningham, Flora, Mathis, Steinorth and state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto – the only GOP Senate vote to extend cap and trade – are likely to face heat from conservatives in their re-election bids or in seeking other elective posts. Conversely, they could also attract support from moderate and independent voters, given the popularity of environmental causes among state voters.

New GOP leader wants no more cap-and-trade recriminations

But new Assembly GOP leader Dahle – a 51-year-old seed business owner and farmer and former Lassen County supervisor – wants to the put the cap-and-trade flap behind.

“There are 24 other members of this caucus and they all have different views,” he told reporters Thursday after Mayes stepped down. “There are people in our caucus who voted their conscience for their district, and I support those who did that. In my case it didn’t work in my district, so I was opposed to that.”

Mayes, 40, was first elected to the Assembly in 2014 and began as GOP leader in January 2016. While now under fire from conservatives, he could someday be remembered as the man who killed the bullet train – the state project that’s as unpopular among California Republicans as cap and trade.

As part of the cap-and-trade deal, Mayes got Democrats to agree to put a constitutional amendment he wrote before state voters in June 2018. Under the unusual measure, if voters gave the go-ahead, there would be a vote in 2024 by the Legislature on whether to continue to allow cap-and-trade revenue to fund the $68 billion project – with two-thirds support necessary to continue funding.

Brown and bullet-train backers are counting on cap-and-trade fees to increase in coming years and to keep the project viable. So far, the California High-Speed Rail Agency has been unable to attract outside investors to help pay for a statewide system, and federal funding dried up after Republicans took control of the House in 2010.

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Republicans oust Chad Mayes as Assembly GOP leader

As reported by the Riverside Press-Enterprise:

Assemblyman Chad Mayes will no longer lead the California State Assembly’s Republicans, after weeks of intraparty fighting that brought tremendous pressure on the Yucca Valley assemblyman to step aside.

The 25-member caucus announced Mayes’ departure as Assembly Republican leader Thursday, Aug. 24., as Mayes announced the new leader on the Assembly floor. Replacing Mayes effective Sept. 15 will be Assemblyman Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, who represents a rural Northern California district.

“Chad Mayes did an outstanding job as our leader,” Dahle said in a news release. “I look forward to picking up where he left off and continuing the fight to articulate conservative principles in a way that resonates with everyday Californians.”

“Brian Dahle will be an effective leader for the caucus and will continue our work to move the Republican Party toward greater relevance and viability in California,” Mayes said in the same statement.  “I am proud to support him.”

A caucus leadership vote was scheduled for next week. A caucus motion to “vacate the chair” – fire Mayes – fell three votes short Monday. …

Click here to read the full article

CA Assembly Considers Bill to Delay Start of Public Schools to 8:30am

Close up of alarm clock, woman in background.

The California State Assembly is now considering legislation that would postpone the start of public middle and high schools until 8:30 a.m. each day, after a large majority of the California State Senate passed the bill earlier this year.

California Senate Bill 328 passed out of the Senate by a majority vote of 25 to 13. The legislation, titled “Pupil attendance: school start time,” provides that the “public school day for middle schools and high schools shall begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. no later than July 1, 2020.” The most recent version of the bill does provide a two-year waiver for rural districts, but all state public schools would be calendared to start at 8:30 a.m. by 2022.

When the primary and secondary education system started in the 1800s, California public school districts were free to set school calendars and hours. City schools tended to go year-round, and rural schools were open for the equivalent of five months, with winter and summer sessions that allowed farm children to help with planting and harvesting crops.

Union concerns about the ill effects of too much schooling on students’ and teachers’ health led to eliminating summer terms and setting a standardized statewide 180-day school year in the 1950s. The California Legislature cut the public school year calendar to 175 days in 2008. The change was described by unions as an effort to reduce environmental damage by reducing transportation, heating and cooling, and food service costs.

But with California public schools’ National Assessment of Educational Progress standardized test scores for 4th- and 8th-grade student math and reading scores plunging to the bottom fifth of U.S. states, the 180-day school year was reestablished in 2015.

The justification for later school days is based on studies by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute that the daily recommendation for sleep is 16 to 18 hours for newborn babies, 11 to 12 hours for preschool children, 10 hours for school-age children, and 9 to 10 hours for teenagers. But with an individual’s biological clock shifting forward in adolescence, teenagers tend to become more alert and have difficulty falling asleep in the evening and waking early in the morning, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

SB-328 cleared the Assembly Education Committee by a 5-to-2 vote and is moving toward an Assembly floor vote. Governor Jerry Brown has not indicated whether he will sign the legislation if it is passed and moved to desk.

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California Bills Target Private Business to Help Immigrants

As reported by NBC News:

California Democrats are expanding their efforts to resist President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigrants in the country illegally with bills aimed at limiting how much private businesses can cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Democrats control all levels of state government, and leaders have vowed to resist Trump administration policies at every turn. Immigration is among their key issues, but most legislation so far has been aimed at limiting what police can do to help immigration authorities and providing additional state services and support to immigrants in the country illegally.

Now, two bills that advanced in the Assembly in the past week are taking aim at private businesses.

A measure that would bar landlords from disclosing tenants’ immigration status or reporting them to immigration officials passed the chamber. A bill prohibiting public and private employers from letting immigration agents come into their worksites or view their employee files cleared a committee. …

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Water Infrastructure, Not Divestment, is the Key Environmental Issue that California Faces

Oroville Dam 2Divestment – the notion of an entity selling off investments when driven by a political agenda – has become a common topic discussed among California’s state and municipal elected officials in recent months. Questions should be raised when time, energy and attention are being spent on divestment, and should instead be focused on other higher priorities.

Recently some environmental groups in California have taken to targeting specific projects and companies in an effort to divest cities and other entities from fossil fuels. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has recently become the cause célèbre for such efforts. Several cities have divested or have indicated a desire to divest from the financial backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline, including San Francisco, Davis, Alameda and Santa Monica. In the California Assembly, freshman legislator Ash Kalra introduced Assembly Bill 20, mandating divestment from DAPL, which is working its way through the legislative process.

With such focus being put on divestment, some basic questions must be raised. Is there a consensus around the idea that divestment actually works? More importantly, should divestment proposals like AB20 even be in the mix as a top priority for environmentally conscious officials right now?

It is important to remember that divestment does not necessarily hurt the company whose stocks are being shed … they merely become available to a large pool of investors to buy or sell. Ironically, pension funds and university endowments suffer the most, as they are forced to look for riskier and more volatile options to fill the gaps that divesting leaves. Passage of Assembly Bill 20 will only serve to hurt California’s public pensions.

Several high-profile representatives from both the pension and academic camps in California have cast even more doubt on the effectiveness of divestment. The staff of CalPERS characterized divestment as “an ineffective strategy for achieving social or political goals.” On the university front, Stanford University’s Board of Trustees released a statement which asserted that they did “not believe that a credible case can be made for divesting from the fossil fuel industry until there are competitive and readily available alternatives.” As for the bill specifically, even the Los Angeles Times’ editorial board came out against the bill, calling it “ill-considered” and “attention-getting.”

With public sector pensions facing shortfalls measuring in the billions of dollars and with heightened concerns about “college affordability” being key issues among Californians, perhaps governing the direction of pensions and endowments with anything other than a keen sense of fiduciary responsibility might be ill-advised. That is not to say that there are plenty of other immediately pressing issues that environmentalists and environmentally-minded lawmakers like Ash Kalra could rally behind.

It is abundantly clear that California’s water infrastructure and management is in dire need of reform. Events, such as the prolonged drought conditions from last year, and then the nearly catastrophic dam collapse in an unusually wet winter, clearly signal that our state’s water management infrastructure is in urgent need of an overhaul. As one in-depth Wired commentary on the issue has stated, California’s approach to protecting farms from large influxes of water is largely reliant on “patch-and-pray.” Levees and canals, many of them over a century old, simply cannot manage our state’s water supply. It is clear that a massive overhaul of these systems will be needed, combined with a fundamental re-thinking of how we use water in our daily lives. This overhaul needs to look at how cities use water; how irrigation can be made more efficient; and how we price and track water use.

In any public debate at this magnitude, California will need the input of all stakeholders in the state. That includes businesses, state lawmakers, heavy industry, agriculture, utilities, water management officials, and yes, even environmentalists. As we have seen in the case of Oroville, where a potential dam burst forced evacuation of 180,000 residents and nearly led to one of the largest disasters in California history, fixing California’s water infrastructure is not an issue that can wait much longer.

The efforts of Ash Kalra and the environmental community, misplaced in forcing divestment, should be redirected to create positive changes that our state needs. It is clear that pensions and endowments should not be used as a platform for taking ideological stances, but to perform as investments which best support the institutions and people they are intended to serve.

However, there are several pressing environmental issues that affect the quality of life of all Californians that need to be resolved in a comprehensive manner. Water infrastructure is perhaps the most urgent and important of those issues.

Bruce Whitaker is the Mayor of Fullerton, California, and also serves as a Director of the Orange County Water District.