Assembly Constitutional Amendment 13 is an Attack on Uou, the California Taxpayer

Ever since California’s first state constitution in 1849, constitutional amendments have required a majority vote of the electorate.

“If the people shall approve or ratify such amendment or amendments by a majority of the electors qualified to vote for members of the legislature, voting thereon, such amendment or amendments shall become part of the Constitution,” the handwritten document states.

That provision applied to all proposed constitutional amendments. At no time in the state’s history have constitutional amendments had different thresholds for voter approval based on their content.

But the new speaker of the California Assembly, Robert Rivas, has decided this is a problem. He has proposed changing the constitution to impose a higher vote threshold for certain types of amendments proposed by citizen initiatives.

Along with Assemblymember Chris Ward, D-San Diego, Rivas has co-authored Assembly Constitutional Amendment 13, which would make it more difficult to pass constitutional amendments that make it more difficult to raise taxes.

For example, if an initiative constitutional amendment would require that tax increases must be approved by two-thirds of voters, the proposed amendment itself would require a two-thirds vote.

It doesn’t work the other way, though. If a citizen initiative would drop the requirement to pass a tax increase from two-thirds to 55%, for example, it wouldn’t need 55% approval. It would pass with 50%-plus-one-vote, like all other constitutional amendments.

This is nothing more than an effort to prevent citizens from using the initiative process to limit tax increases. Under this proposed amendment, even Proposition 13 would not have passed. California’s iconic taxpayer protection act was approved by 64.79% of voters in 1978. Under ACA 13, it would have needed 66.67%, because it contained a provision that required a two-thirds vote of the electorate to pass local tax increases.

California court rulings have chipped away at Proposition 13’s taxpayer protections. In 1982, the state Supreme Court ruled in City and County of San Francisco v. Farrell that local taxes for general purposes, as opposed to “special” taxes for a dedicated purpose, could pass with a simple majority instead of a two-thirds vote.

In 2017, the state Supreme Court’s opinion in California Cannabis Coalition vs. City of Upland suggested that even “special” taxes might not need a two-thirds vote if they were proposed by a citizens’ initiative, instead of by a city council or other governing body. Cities immediately tested the limits of the court’s language and found appellate courts more than willing to allow tax increases proposed by initiative to pass with a simple majority.

A new initiative that has qualified for the November 2024 ballot contains language that overrides appellate court decisions based on the Upland ruling and restores the two-thirds vote requirement for special taxes regardless of how they are proposed.

ACA 13 appears to be an attempted kill shot aimed at that initiative, which proponents, who include the California Business Roundtable and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, have titled “The Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Retail Owners Frustrated With Gov. Newsom, Mayor Bass Responses to Multiplying Robberies

‘Bass keeps finding new ways to disappoint us – She’s not even doing the bare minimum’

Retail store owners in Los Angeles continued to remain frustrated at the recent string of smash and grab robberies, with many charging that state and local officials have not done enough to help deter the growing number of robberies. The Globe spoke with several retail owners in the LA area about what the situation currently is like for them.

“If a large number of people burst in here all at once, there is nothing we can really do,” said Nasser Odeh, a luxury store owner in Los Angeles, to the Globe. “Say 12 come in and start smashing the cases. If I call the police, they won’t respond in time, and even if some just happen to swing by, the most we can hope for is one or two arrests. If I pull down the shutters, then I’m stuck with 12 angry robbers who may or may not be armed. If I bring out bear spray or another weapon, they’ll retaliate. If I fight back, they’ll retaliate. The best case for me is that one or two of them are caught, but then because of the laws we have, who knows if they’ll even be sentenced.”

“This is where a lot of retailers are, especially ones that carry expensive clothes or jewelry or something else expensive that is easy to carry out and flip. We don’t know who to turn to in these cases. The best we can do is improve security as best as we can to deter robbers.”

A clothing boutique co-owner, Sarah Watt, added, “This is incredibly frustrating, and scary. If you look at those smash and grab videos, they all come in wearing black and face coverings, and just rip what they can. It’s brutal and effective. And there is only so much we can do. We can have armed security guards and cameras and everything, but they’ll still come. What we want is more police, stronger sentences, and for our security guards to be given the green light for more hands on action in case things take a turn. But this city just is not doing that. [LA Mayor Karen] Bass really doesn’t give a damn about small business owners.”

The uptick in ‘flash mob’ robberies did spur some action this week from both Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor Karen Bass. Gov. Newsom announced on Thursday that he would be tripling its California Highway Patrol (CHP)resources in Los Angeles to help crack down on the issue, while Mayor Bass created a new task force to help counter the robberies. According to the Mayor’s office, the new task force will investigate, apprehend and prosecute all criminals involved in recent retail thefts.

“We are not treating it as organized crime in the traditional sense, in terms of, like, the Mafia,” said the Mayor on Friday. “But what is clear is that this is organized. You can’t go in and have a group of people, 20 and 30 people, who all get out of their cars at the same time, all go in to the stores. There might be connections between the groups. This is what the task force will establish.”

“No Angeleno should feel like it’s not safe to go shopping in Los Angeles. No entrepreneur should feel like it’s not safe to open a business.”

Disappointment with the response by Newsom, Bass

However, the actions of Newsom and Bass have rung hollow for many. Senate Republicans on Thursday pointed out the flaws in Newsom’s plan, including that, because of many current vacancies in the CHP, the increased presence would put a strain on the Highway Patrol as a consequence of the state not giving any additional resources (funding) to them. Others said that the state’s lax laws on reducing penalties to retail criminals, few to no prison terms for retail robberies, and early releases for those with sentences severely undercut what the Governor was attempting to do. In addition, it was also mentioned that the lack of arrests from similar flash mob robberies in the Bay Area two years ago showed how the Governor’s response would likely not accomplish much.

“Welcome to ‘CRIMEafornia,’” said Senator Brian Jones (R-San Diego) in a statement on Thursday. “The crisis we are experiencing is unfortunately a result of decades-long policies implemented by Democrat lawmakers that prioritize coddling criminals over protecting communities. While it’s welcome news that the state is investing more resources to combat skyrocketing thefts, it shouldn’t be happening in the first place. The governor is treating the symptoms, not the causes, including little-to-no penalties, early release, lenient or non-existent prison terms, and weak leadership from most of California’s Democrat politicians over the last two decades.”

More locally in LA, Bass’ task force announcement failed to impress retail owners.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Jon Coupal: Call your California Assembly Representative, Demand They Reject ACA 1

Prior to the successful passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, Howard Jarvis tried several times to bring property tax relief to beleaguered California homeowners. While coming close, it wasn’t until 1978 when voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13 over the opposition of virtually every political institution and newspaper in California.

As they say, timing is everything. What changed the political dynamic so abruptly in 1978 was the fact that thousands of California homeowners were being taxed out of their homes. That also explains why, to this day, Proposition 13 retains its popularity even as the state has become more “progressive.”

Last week there were two competing press events over Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1 (ACA 1), a proposal that would erase part of Proposition 13. As the head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, I was joined at a news conference on the Capitol’s west steps on Wednesday by several legislators who have unequivocally expressed their continued support for Proposition 13 and opposition to ACA 1. Also present were several representatives of other taxpayer groups as well as business organizations suffering under California’s excessive tax burdens.

ACA 1 is a direct attack on Proposition 13 because it would cut the vote threshold needed to pass local special taxes, dropping it from the current two-thirds vote required by Proposition 13 to only 55%. That change would make it easier for local governments to raise taxes.

Since Proposition 13 was enacted in 1978, voters have continued to support the important two-thirds vote protection. That support was reaffirmed with the passage of pro-taxpayer initiatives in 1986, 1996 and 2010.

Many people may not know that the two-thirds vote requirement did not originate in 1978. It has been in the California Constitution since 1879! For more than a century, local property owners have been protected against excessive bond debt by the requirement that local bonds – repaid only by property owners – need a two-thirds vote of the local electorate.

ACA 1 repeals the two-thirds vote protection for tax increases to support “infrastructure,” a term so expansive that local governments would be able to raise taxes for almost any purpose with a vote of just 55% of the electorate. This is a hatchet that chops away at the taxpayer protections in Proposition 13.

ACA 1 proponents are aware of Prop. 13’s enduring popularity, so not once in their over one-hour press event did they mention Proposition 13 by name. Instead, they talked about “protecting democracy,” “local control,” and taking on “right-wing interests.” (Are Californians “right wing” for wanting to keep their home instead of being taxed out of it?) Nor did the supporters of ACA 1 provide any specific example of exactly what lowering the two-thirds vote would purchase, other than to claim that it was essential to address California’s dual crises of housing and homelessness.

Opponents of ACA 1 have noted that making it easier to raise taxes makes no sense in one of the highest taxed states in America. No other state comes close to California’s 13.3% top marginal income tax rate, and we also have the highest state sales tax in America as well as the highest gas tax, not to mention gas prices. And even with Prop. 13, we rank 14th out of 50 states in per capita property tax collections. Californians pay enough.

This is a critical time. As of this writing, ACA 1 has cleared one legislative committee and may be heard by the full Assembly as early as this week. However, its main proponent, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, admitted at her press conference that she didn’t quite have the votes yet. For that reason, the time is now for all defenders of Proposition 13 and advocates for limited taxation to contact their Assembly representatives and let them know that a vote for ACA 1 is a vote against Proposition 13.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Small Business Owners Protest at Capitol Over Bill They Say Will Put Them Out of Business

SB 553 calls for preventing workplace violence with OSHA regulations

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Senate Bill 553 is meant to prevent workplace violence, but some small Northern California business owners say it will put them out of business.

Hundreds of gas station and convenience store owners protested the bill at the state Capitol on Wednesday, saying it will encourage more retail theft and does not protect them.

Senator Dave Cortese, a Democrat representing District 15, who is behind the bill, did not receive a warm welcome from the crowd. At times they yelled no and “booed” him as he spoke.

“This bill should be called retail business killer SB 553,” said Harminder Singh.

Singh and many in the crowd are members of the American Petroleum and Convenience Store Association.

Cortese said the bill would establish a new baseline of workplace violence prevention standards, such as documenting every crime and how it was handled by employees.

Click here to read the full article at

Southern California’s Natural Gas Plants to Stay Open Through 2026

California officials agreed today to extend operations at three natural gas plants on the Southern California coast in an effort to shore up California’s straining power grid and avoid rolling blackouts.

The controversial and unanimous vote that keeps the plants open came from the State Water Resources Control Board, which oversees the phaseout of natural gas facilities that suck in seawater and kill marine life.

Seawater-cooled units at three power plants in Long BeachHuntington Beach and Oxnard will be kept in reserve for three more years to feed energy into the state’s grid during power emergencies, such as the 10-day heatwave last August and September that led to statewide power alerts. The plants had been slated to cease operations of those units by the end of 2020, but received a three-year extension amid rolling blackouts that summer. 

Now that extension has been extended again — through 2026. A fourth, the Scattergood Generating Station in Playa Del Rey, will receive a five-year extension to fill regional supply gaps though 2029. 

“When it comes to keeping the power plant, please don’t see us as just a number, or just a location on a map…We deserve a safe and clear and clean environment just like you do.”KYLE DE LA TORRE, OXNARD RESIDENT

The decision about the fossil fuel plants comes despite the state’s mandate for 100% renewable and zero-carbon electricity by 2045. 

Natural gas plants are a large source of greenhouse gases, which warm the planet, toxic gases like ammonia and formaldehyde, and nitrogen oxides, which contribute to Southern California’s extreme smog. Nationally, natural gas plants account for about a third of all carbon emissions from energy production.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom last year called for state agencies such as the Department of Water Resources to prop up the grid — including with fossil fuels, which drew the ire of environmentalists and nearby communities. 

The state agreed to pay the plants’ operating companies about $1.2 billion from 2024 through the end of 2026 to stand by during energy events, such as heatwaves.

“These resources would only be turned on to address extreme events or for maintenance runs” at the direction of the state’s grid operator, said Delphine Hou, deputy director of the Department of Water Resources, at a meeting of the California Energy Commission last week. 

The decision outraged many local residents, especially those in the largely Latino community of Oxnard, where many work outdoors in farm fields. The city supported the previous extension with the understanding that the plant’s owner would pay up to $25 million to demolish it

After the vote, several angry people yelled at the water board members, “You failed our community.”

During the five-hour session that drew more than 60 people commenting, Kyle De La Torre, an Oxnard resident with the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, urged the board to reject the extension. He said the smell is so strong that he gets a migraine when he passes the plant and worries about a school and homes nearby. 

“When it comes to keeping the power plant, please don’t see us as just a number, or just a location on a map. We are humans just like you are. We deserve a safe and clear and clean environment just like you do,” he said.

Dave Shukla, co-founder of the Long Beach Alliance for Clean Energy, said he lives near the AES Alamitos plant. “I have wasted countless hours of my life over the past 25 years to cleaning up the dark soot that this plant emits directly onto our home,” he said. 

Water board staff acknowledged that those living near the plants will continue to experience “air, noise, and aesthetic impacts.”

But Hou told the energy commission last week that because the seawater-cooling plants won’t be operating on “a day-to-day basis like they are today, it’s very likely there’ll be a reduction in air emissions and once-through cooling water use,” which is the process of sucking in large volumes of seawater that kills fish and other marine life. The state policy phasing out the process dates back to 2010.

Newer generating units at the Huntington Beach and Long Beach plants use alternative cooling technologies, instead of seawater, so they are not subject to the phaseout. They would have remained operating regardless of today’s vote, since they are under contract for another 17.5 years — and not just for emergency use, according to AES.

In August 2022 “gas plants failed to perform at their expected capacity during the heatwave, while significantly increasing the pollution burden for local communities.”REPORT BY REGENERATE CALIFORNIA

Mark Miller, AES’s general manager for facilities, including the Alamitos and Huntington Beach plants, said the the company “invests significant capital each year to ensure that our facilities are maintained at a state of readiness to safely serve local and system reliability needs” and that the plants’ contributions to pollution in the Los Angeles basin are “overwhelmingly dwarfed” by vehicles and other industries.

Eric Watts, chief commercial officer for GenOn, which owns and operates the Ormond Beach Generating Station in Oxnard, said the extensions “are necessary to protect grid reliability in the coming years.” 

But whether the plants are capable of assisting the grid during extreme power events is controversial. During rolling blackouts in 2020, natural gas plants struggled in the heat, “resulting in power loss in combustion turbines, inlet air and cooling system stresses, steam tube leaks, and condenser pump failures,” the California Energy Commission reported.

In August 2022 “gas plants failed to perform at their expected capacity during the heatwave, while significantly increasing the pollution burden for local communities,” according to a report by a consulting firm commissioned by Regenerate California, a coalition of environmental organizations.

The findings call “into question the strategy of relying on gas generation as we experience more extreme weather, and as our understanding of its pollution and public health risks grows,” the report says.

The plants will be folded into a new state electricity reserve program, created by an energy deal that the Newsom administration and lawmakers cut last summer. Lawmakers called the deal “rushed” and “lousy” at the time, and environmentalists lambasted Newsom for leaning on fossil fuels as the state reels from one greenhouse gas-fueled disaster to another. 

State Sen. Henry Stern, a Democrat from Calabasas, said he helped negotiate the deal yet apologized because fossil fuels are supposed to be a last resort. 

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

You Shall Comply: California Legislation Requires All Foster Parents Affirm LGBTQ Youth

California pols are here, they’re queer, and they’re coming for your children

If the title of this article seems familiar to you, then you probably remember the alphabet mafia chanting a similar refrain during the month-long celebration of Pride Month – “We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re coming for your children,” the Trans-Cultists chanted. Looking at current California legislation and those pushing the bills through (they’re here), it appears that California politicians (they’re queer) are setting up the infrastructure today to come for your children tomorrow (they’re coming).

How do we know? By the inordinate amount of focus and spending of resources in the realm of foster and “gender-affirming” care, considering the small populations relative to total state population of children.

Focus on Foster Care

Desert Truth previously covered the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on the foster-kids population by California County Offices of Education through the Community Schools push. A very disproportionate focus considering foster kids are such a tiny portion of the total population. For instance, only 5.7% of the Riverside County Community School population are foster kids. Of all of Riverside County, just .58% of the student population are foster kids. Yet, RCOE’s main Community School “Community Partner” is a foster care agency raking in millions from the RCOE and the County coffers.

The same is true for California at large, there are currently 90 bills in the legislature that relate to the (soon to be booming) foster care industry, compared to the 320 total bills in the Senate and 603 in the Assembly. That is not to say that all 91 bills focus on foster care, just that foster care is mentioned in some way. The same is true for “gender identity”, which is contained in 72 current bills.

Whoa, that is a lot of legalese to read through! Why don’t we just focus on a couple of bills that illustrate the point then? Good idea, thank you. Our focus will be SB 407 and AB 957. Pull on your high rubber boots or waders if you have them, we’re headed for the swamp!

SB 407 Foster Care

SB 407, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), seeks to amend current code “relating to foster care”. The bill was introduced in February of 2023 and has worked its way through five committees and the Senate Floor. SB 407 seeks to make the following changes relating to foster care:

require a resource family to demonstrate the capacity to meet the needs of a child, regardless of the child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, as specified.require the applicant to demonstrate that understanding through signing a document acknowledging foster youth rights.The bill would require the department to work with stakeholders, including counties, the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, and…LGBTQ advocates, to develop standards and a caregiver handbook for caring for children and youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

The above language is a bit misleading though. Take a look at the original wording to ascertain the true intent of this bill.

Listen carefully to what Sen. Wiener says in the Senate Human Services committee. Wiener gets melodramatic and quotes false statistics with no evidence, but the dramatics don’t stop there. According to Wiener, if you’re not 100% behind his agenda, then you will obviously torture children. Keep in mind “conversion therapy” is what surely Christian kids must endure everyday in public schools. Direct link.

In other words, the final language of the bill will not matter much, it will be implemented and regulated by the bureaucrats that the bill creates. The intent–that all possible foster homes will have activists indoctrinated in the ways of the cult–will get through. Thus, heterosexual christian foster youth will not stand a chance, as only foster parents that have transgender certification will be available.

AB 957 Gender Identity

AB 957, introduced by Assemblyman Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City) with Sen. Wiener as principal co-author, purposes to amend section 3011 of California Family Code. The amended code “would include a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity or gender expression as part of the health, safety, and welfare of the child.”

Yes, you read that right, parents must affirm mental illnesses rather than seek treatment–or lose their kids.

AB 957 was introduced in February of 2023 and has been passed through the full Assembly as well as the Assembly and Senate Judiciary committees. The bill first appeared in the Assembly Judiciary committee on March 17, 2023. Assemblywoman Wilson presented the bill and made clear that parents must affirm their child’s mental illness or face the court-ordered removal of their kids. Wilson, reminiscent of the mobster line “it’s just business” right before they whack you, states the opposite. This “is personal,” Wilson said, with a cold resolve. Direct link.

Go back to the 1:08:00 mark… did Wilson admit to kidnapping? Wilson brought three alphabet mafia activists to bear witness of support for her bill. They all have the false paradigm that affirming gender care as a treatment for a mental illness is scientifically, or even logically sound. But, they were all treated with dignity and respect by the committee, and even allowed to go overtime in their testimony. Notice in the video below that the witnesses appear wearing masks. In 2023.

But I digress.The opposition witnesses were treated much differently, they were even prevented from approaching the customary main witness table at first. The gentleman in the video below is a true victim of the State courts and has a tragic tale regarding his children and the Cult. Direct link.

Connecting Dots

Granted, we only covered two bills, but remember we searched and found a total of 162 bills that mentioned “gender identity” or “foster care.” We have seen through previous articles how California has invested in the Community Schools structure, which tends to partner with foster care agencies at the county level. Other articles still, covered the push to cover gender-affirming mental health therapists (MediCaid) for every child in public schools. But why all that attention and money to the foster care infrastructure, such a small percentage of California Youth?

Now we know. It all makes sense. The State needs that foster care infrastructure to house the children of parents that don’t believe in affirming mental illnesses. They will find you. Sen. Wiener said it in the video above, he wants to know everything about everyone. Politicians like Sen. Wiener and Assemblywoman Wilson work to ensure that the foster care infrastructure is staffed with cult-indoctrinated workers.

Let’s sign off with words of wisdom from other California politicians, presenting a bill which posited kids don’t make good decisions. The bill is AB 89 from 2021 and Sen. Wiener voted for it. AB 89 was actually a grift for the education-industrial complex, but that is another story. Direct link.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Proposals in California Legislature Would Encourage Government Secrecy

Bill McEwen, a columnist for San Joaquin Valley news site GV Wire, posed several of what he considered to be routine factual questions to the state Department of Public Health last week about a mysterious laboratory discovered in the small town of Reedley.

The laboratory, in an abandoned warehouse, contained mice, biological fluids and samples of dreaded diseases including HIV, malaria and COVID-19. Federal and state investigators are delving into the situation, which surfaced when a city building code inspector noticed a hose snaking out of a wall in the warehouse.

McEwen wanted to know how the department oversees laboratories, how often they are inspected and how illegal labs get discovered. But he got nowhere. Department officials refused to answer even the most basic operational questions and told McEwen to search their website to find answers.

“Administration of @GavinNewsom has zero commitment to transparency,” McEwen tweeted in frustration.

It was an example of what reporters and others have increasingly experienced in recent years as they attempt to decipher what politicians and bureaucrats are doing. It’s not hyperbole to say that a wall of secrecy has been erected around the state Capitol and the surrounding complex of buildings housing state agencies.

It was beginning to happen before COVID-19 struck the state in 2020 but it worsened during the pandemic as Gov. Gavin Newsom wielded emergency powers that suspended many of the “sunshine laws” governing open meetings, open records and other forms of access.

Newsom and other officials became used to operating out of public view and even after the pandemic eased, they continued the same practices.

The post-pandemic syndrome manifests itself not only in politicians and other officials seeking to avoid the give-and-take of direct questioning by reporters, as McEwen learned, but in the proliferation of meetings that are accessible only via internet.

California’s First Amendment Coalition, which attempts to preserve access to governmental records and meetings, may be fighting an uphill battle as the Legislature moves several measures that would reinforce closed door government, to wit:

  • Senate Bill 544, which passed the Senate on a 26-3 vote and now pending in the Assembly, would amend the state Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, which governs state boards and commissions, by permanently allowing them to conduct meetings without in-person attendance, allowing only internet or telephonic access by the public.
  • Senate Bill 537, also pending in the Assembly after 32-8 Senate approval, would amend the Ralph M. Brown Act, which governs local governments, to similarly allow “multi-jurisdictional, cross-county local agencies with appointed members” to meet via teleconference “without posting agendas at each teleconference location, identifying each teleconference location in the notice and agenda, making each teleconference location accessible to the public, and requiring at least a quorum of the eligible legislative body to participate from within the local agency’s jurisdiction…”
  • Senate Bill 411, approved by the Senate on a 30-5 vote and also pending in the Assembly, would allow such teleconference meetings by “neighborhood councils” without in-person access and is specifically aimed at 99 such bodies in Los Angeles.

Ginny LaRoe, advocacy director of the First Amendment Coalition, captured the essence of these measures in her comment on SB 544: “SB 544 rewrites the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act to allow officials serving on any state body – think CPUC, POST, State Bar and many more – to never again show up in person to a physical meeting location. This is government by telephone.”

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Why California Cities Use Your Tax Dollars to Lobby the Legislature

The tiny Central Valley city of Farmersville reported lobbying on a contentious caste discrimination bill, even though it doesn’t have a large South Asian population. San Mateo County lobbied the state budget, plus one specific bill this session, focused on student meals, at the request of its health department. Rosemead in Los Angeles County lobbied on a stalled youth tackle football bill, at the urging of one city councilmember. 

These are some of the more unusual and curious examples of one way business gets done at the state Capitol — local governments using taxpayers’ money to lobby the Legislature and state agencies, sometimes for more tax money. 

According to a CalMatters analysis, local governments, water districts and transit agencies have spent nearly $24 million on lobbying the state this year, accounting for about 10% of the more than $233 million total.

Industry groups and special interests spend much more on lobbying. For instance, while the Hawaiian Gardens Casino and Chevron are the biggest lobbying spenders, at more than $5 million each, the city of Los Angeles ranked 23rd at about $1 million, just behind Vernon, a 328-person,  scandal-plagued industrial city in Los Angeles County, which spent about the same but reported lobbying on “no legislation or administrative actions.”

Not all local government agencies lobby the state, but those that do tend to want to influence policies such as crime, land use, housing or water. They also seek more money from the state budget: This legislative session, cities and counties sought millions for homelessness programs, while public transit agencies wanted help covering operating costs. 

And some national research shows the lobbying pays off — cities that do receive between 7% and 9% more per person in state funding than those that don’t.

Despite the benefits to some local governments and their taxpayers, the lobbying process isn’t fully transparent. There are no disclosure requirements for why a city lobbies on a particular bill or what position it’s taking. There are also no statewide rules for soliciting input from residents before deciding what bill or issue on which to lobby.

Paying for a seat at the table

State lawmakers are already supposed to look out for the needs of the cities they represent. But because legislators might have multiple cities in their district, or a city might be split among several districts, many municipalities still lobby to communicate their needs.

“California has some of the highest city lobbying rates of any state in the country,” said Julia Payson, an assistant professor of political science at UCLA who has studied municipal lobbying across the U.S.

But “it’s not an outlier by any means,” Payson said, especially given how much state money is at stake. According to the state Department of Finance, about 80% of California’s budget, including federal money the state distributes, is spent on local assistance — $362 billion of $466 billion total in all funds in 2022-23.

But by influencing how much local agencies get from the state, Payson’s research indicates this lobbying could perpetuate revenue gaps among local governments.

That city governments lobby for the attention of officials who already represent them is “puzzling,” according to research co-authored by Jaclyn Kettler, an associate political science professor at Boise State University. She noted that there’s been at least one effort, in Texas, to ban the use of taxpayer money for lobbying the state government

“We have in the United States, the federal system of government, meaning we have multiple levels of elected officials in many areas,” she said. “We were like, this is really curious that these governments are needing to hire representation when they already have elected officials.”  

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association keeps an eye on the use of public funds for political advocacy. “I think most taxpayers would be very disappointed to learn the extent to which their taxpayer funds are being spent in Sacramento to lobby for higher taxes,” the group’s president, Jon Coupal, told CalMatters on Wednesday. 

Local governments can take a few paths to advocacy in the state Capitol, though some employ a mixed approach. They can dispatch their elected and appointed leaders to Sacramento, hire their own in-house lobbyists, or they can join coalitions such as the League of California Cities, which spent about $3 million lobbying last session, or the California State Association of Counties, which spent $1.4 million. 

There has “always been a push-pull between what is deemed a municipal responsibility and what is an issue of statewide concern,” Jason Rhine, the league’s interim advocacy director, wrote in an email.

Rhine said the group ends up tracking about two-thirds of all bills introduced, and that its policy experts monitor each bill and its potential impact. The league’s lobbying priorities are “informed entirely by our members and our board,” he said.

Or local governments can hire lobbying firms, which can be especially helpful for smaller cities to keep track of the many bills that go through the Legislature. For Tulare, a smaller, more conservative city in the Central Valley, lobbyists help give it more of a voice in the Democratic super-majority state Legislature, said City Manager Marc Mondell. It has spent nearly $32,000 this year.

“The large policy issues in any state are typically driven by the party that’s in control, and by the largest metropolitan areas — so the Los Angeleses, the San Franciscos, the Sacramentos,” he said. “A 70,000-person city like Tulare is not going to have much of a voice. So one of the ways you try to amplify that voice is by having a lobbyist.”

So far in 2023, the city of Los Angeles reported spending more than $1 million on lobbying, though that doesn’t include lobbying by some departments such as the city attorney. San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s office reported spending $184,000 on lobbyists, though the Board of Supervisors reported no spending. That may reflect that two of the current legislators representing San Francisco were recently supervisors. Sacramento reported more than $450,000. 

Some local officials believe that hiring lobbyists gives them more detailed input on bills in a way that just issuing a position statement doesn’t.

“They can not only speak intelligently on the issues, but, if they have an opportunity, they can also reiterate a position that we may have taken on a piece of legislation and just sort of remind our legislators that we need their help, and we’re watching their voting record,” said Joe Calabrigo, town manager in Danville in the East Bay. 

Some cities lobby specifically on bills authored by lawmakers who represent their districts, at times at their prompting, if the issues fit their framework. Danville backed Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan’s bills on mental health, such as the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline bill signed into law last year.  

“If we expect the Assemblymember to hear us if we have issues or concerns with any bill, we also want to be there to back her up when she’s doing something that we think is positive,” he said. “When you have that kind of a working relationship back and forth with your legislators, it’s a two-way street.”

Still, if their leaders already have good working relationships with legislators, a city may want to avoid the expense of hiring lobbyists. “It’s kind of like a gamble … it’s going to work better in some years than others,” Payson said.

A fuzzy picture

The full picture of what local governments lobby on isn’t known because they’re only required to file reports with the Secretary of State’s office each quarter when they have contracted with a lobbying firm. Cities also have to report salaries of in-house lobbyists who spend at least one-third of their time directly advocating for regulation or legislation.

And aside from which bills were lobbied on the most and how much was spent, the filings that are required don’t offer a very clear picture — including whether the cities support or oppose the bills. 

Take Senate Bill 403, the caste discrimination bill by Sen. Aisha Wahab, a Democrat from Fremont. According to the reports, the bill is being lobbied on by the Central Valley cities of Farmersville, Kingsburg, Reedley, Tulare, Turlock and Soledad, as well as Morro Bay on the Central Coast. 

All seven cities are clients of Townsend Public Affairs, a self-described top 10 lobbying firm that represents about 70 local agencies.  

Asked why they had chosen to lobby on the caste bill — among other bills on their Townsend list that included land use, water protections and government operations — officials in four cities that responded did not know. They checked, and reported back the same information: If the city asks about a bill and what its impacts might be, that gets reported. 

But that’s counter to instructions from the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, which states that lobbyist employers must report “the legislative bills and state agency administrative actions which you ‘actively’ influenced or attempted to influence, or your lobbyist or any lobbying firm with which you contract ‘actively’ influenced or attempted to influence on your behalf during the calendar quarter.”

The instructions explicitly define what “actively’ lobbied” means, and say not to list bills “which are only being watched or monitored, or those which you have not attempted to influence during the reporting period.”

Townsend did not respond to repeated requests for comment. On its website, it promises a “comprehensive approach” of tracking bills, building relationships with legislators and agency officials and developing a strategy. “Without a strong presence and legislative agenda in Sacramento, it is difficult to make your voice heard,” the firm says.

But the caste discrimination bill isn’t the only one that seemed outside a local government’s purview and priorities:

The state’s Franchise Tax Board, which is responsible for some oversight of lobbying spending, has fallen short on enforcement of auditing lobbying reports. The board has said it needs more staff to keep up and is seeking more money.

The lack of audits is problematic, said Richard Miadich, chairperson of the Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces laws governing campaign finance and lobbying. 

Transparency carries additional weight when it’s local governments and agencies doing the lobbying with taxpayer money, he said.

“These local governments feel compelled to do it because of the complexity of the issues that are being considered by the state Legislature.… So it’s not surprising that they are leveraging the expertise of both in-house and outside lobbying firms to try and have their voice be heard in the legislature,” Miadich said. 

“So I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with what they’re doing. I think as long as they’re being transparent about it and being accurate in what they’re doing … that is the most important thing from our standpoint.”

According to Miadich, issues like typos might be addressed with a warning letter to keep better records. Other violations that indicate an agency is trying to hide something would be sent to the commission’s enforcement division. 

Public input is spotty

The Political Reform Act of 1974 gives cities, counties and other districts the authority to lobby the state and federal governments and individual lawmakers and officials on behalf of their constituents, but there is no statewide rule on how they disclose what they lobby on to residents, or if they have to collect any public comments.

That means the process varies by city. Some just report lobbying activity on their forms filed with the Secretary of State each quarter, while others adopt a legislative agenda each year that they discuss and vote on in a public meeting, then lobby throughout the year on bills that fit the adopted criteria. Some post legislative and lobbying activity on their websites, and might also discuss bills at public meetings.

“A 70,000-person city like Tulare is not going to have much of a voice. So one of the ways you try to amplify that voice is by having a lobbyist.”TULARE CITY MANAGER MARC MONDELL

Officials from Tulare and Danville said that they don’t typically see a lot of engagement from the public on state bills.

That was far from the case on July 18 in Cupertino, though, when the City Council spent the majority of a five-hour meeting, including 90 minutes of public comment, on whether the city should take a position on the caste bill.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

How 600-plus California Inmates Got More Than 11,000 Years Cut Off Their Prison Sentences

Neko Wilson wasn’t present when Gary and Sandra DeBartolo were brutally killed in their Central Valley home in 2009. Still, Fresno County prosecutors alleged he was culpable for their murders because he had helped plan the botched robbery.

At the time, California law allowed for people to be charged with first-degree murder if they were involved in a felony that led to a killing, even if they hadn’t intended for anyone to be hurt and didn’t commit the violence themselves. For years, the felony murder law was used to lock up entire groups of offenders for the violent acts of one or two among them — often for decades, sometimes for life.

Wilson, who was 27 when he and five others were arrested in the DeBartolo murders, faced a similar fate.

“That was the hardest pill to swallow,” Wilson said. “A life sentence for something I didn’t do.”

Wilson, however, walked out of prison in October 2018 — the first of hundreds of state prisoners who have benefited from a pair of criminal justice reform measures that revised the way California punishes unwitting accomplices to killings.

According to a first-of-its-kind analysis by the Office of the State Public Defender, at least 602 people in California detention facilities had their prison sentences reduced between 2019 and 2022 as a result of the two laws. That erased an estimated 11,353 years from their combined terms and saved taxpayers between $94 million and $1.2 billion in prison costs.

“This is really tangible — not only real impact on the individuals who were incarcerated under this sentence, but also their families and the rest of California,” said Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who sponsored Senate Bill 1437 in the Legislature and worked to ensure inmates were aware of the change after it passed.

SB 1437, signed into law in 2018, and Senate Bill 775, signed into law in 2021, largely restricted the filing of felony murder and other manslaughter and attempted murder charges to people who actually commit or intend to commit a killing, or who are major participants in a related felony and acted with “reckless indifference to human life.”

Certain cases, including those involving the murder of a law enforcement officer, were exempted.

The bills applied retroactively and allowed people behind bars on convictions and plea deals reached under the old rules to be resentenced — usually for lesser crimes — under the new rules.

The bills set off substantial controversy. Advocates said they would save on prison costs, reduce the size of the state’s prison population and restore fairness to California law. Opponents said the laws would remove a critical deterrent to murder, overturn legitimate jury decisions, force prosecutors to relitigate long settled cases and release dangerous prisoners back into the public.

Both sides gave rough estimates for how many people might be released as a result of the changes and over how long of a period. The true numbers would depend on a host of factors, including individual district attorneys’ willingness to go along with inmates’ requests for resentencing or fight them in court.

Some prosecutors did fight, in part by arguing that the laws were unconstitutional. The state’s highest courts rejected that idea, allowing the laws to stand.

A major criticism of the state’s former felony murder law was that it was disproportionately applied to defendants of color. The state analysis, based on data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, found that 41% of the resentenced defendants were Black, and 39% were Latino — or, as the state broke them out, 20% Mexican and 19% Hispanic. About 12% were white.

The analysis found that 250 of the defendants, or 41.5%, were in Los Angeles County. Another 69, or 11.5%, were in Alameda County and 52, or 8.6%, were in Orange County.

There were 26 in San Diego County, 25 each in Sacramento and San Bernardino counties, 22 in Santa Clara County, 21 in Riverside County and 20 in San Francisco County. The rest were scattered across the state.

The analysis is almost certainly an undercount of people who were resentenced. Some prosecutors have simply cut deals to release detainees rather than go through the official process of resentencing and releasing them under the two laws, legal observers said.

Recidivism among those released was not part of the state’s analysis. However, the Office of the State Public Defender noted that individuals released after long prison terms, like many of those freed under the two laws, tend to reoffend “at a much lower rate than other populations.”

Robert Brown, an assistant district attorney in San Bernardino County, worked with other prosecutors in the state to fight the laws before and after they took effect, and believes they have since let dangerous offenders off the hook.

The laws make it relatively easy for people convicted of felony murder to petition for resentencing, without requiring them to prove they are eligible for such relief. Instead, the legal burden is on prosecutors to prove they are not eligible, Brown said.

That has meant a mountain of new casework for prosecutors — to prove resentencing isn’t deserved because a person had intent to kill or was a reckless, major participant in an underlying felony, Brown said. That work is often complicated or impossible in old cases where key evidence is gone or witnesses have died, or in cases where plea deals were struck and there are no trial transcripts, he said.

“It certainly left us with a less-than-ideal tool belt,” he said.

The new laws also leave families of murder victims “blindsided when they are suddenly told that this murder case from 30 years ago is suddenly coming back” and the people locked up for their loved ones’ murders may go free, Brown said.

“The victims really seem to be left out of consideration here,” he said.

Several inmates who have benefited from the law said they are doing well — and grateful to those who helped make it happen.

Patricia Ann Brown — known as Patty Ann Lamoureux when her well-known case was litigated — was arrested in Temecula in 2011 and charged with felony murder in the killing of Bradley Capen.

She was living at the time with her then-boyfriend, Ian Inserra. A friend named Kyle Miller was also staying at their home. Prosecutors allege that one night, Miller and Inserra went to Miller’s family home to rob Capen, who was Miller’s uncle, and that Miller fatally shot Capen.

Although Brown was not there, prosecutors charged her with murder along with the two men, alleging she had helped plan the robbery and gotten rid of the gun afterward. In 2013, a jury convicted her of felony murder and conspiracy to commit robbery, and sentenced her to life without the possibility of parole.

Capen’s family could not be reached for comment.

Brown says she was not part of planning the attack, and had only gotten rid of the gun because Inserra and Miller had hidden it in a tree outside their home, and she was worried Inserra’s young son would find it. When she heard the verdict in her case — guilty of murder — she said she went into shock.

“My ears were ringing and it was like slow motion, and my heart was beating so hard, and I could hardly breathe,” she said.

She eventually resigned herself to spending the rest of her life behind bars, she said. But one day someone slid a piece of paper under her cell door. On it was the language of SB 1437.

“I burst into tears, because I knew at that point that I was going to get to go home,” she said.

Not that it was easy. Prosecutors fought her release, and Brown’s case went to the California Supreme Court — which declined to take it. That left in place a lower appellate court decision that upheld the new law’s constitutionality and found she was eligible for resentencing, in part because the state had failed to establish that she had any intent for someone to be killed.

Brown’s victory helped clear the way for others convicted of felony murder to also go home.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Gov. Newsom’s Deceit with Local School Boards Exposes Tyrannical Leanings

Is Newsom a ruthlessness authoritarian?

One week ago, the elected Temecula Valley Unified School District board again voted 3-2 to reject California’s elementary school social studies curriculum. A day later, Governor Gavin Newsom announced he would be sending the textbooks anyway, threatened a lawsuit and $1.5 million fine.

Facing a lawsuit and hefty fine, the Temecula Valley board reversed its earlier votes in an emergency meeting that went late last Friday night. They approved the curriculum with the caveat to make the material age and grade appropriate, and asked district officials to review the supplementary material that discusses gay rights and same-sex legality in California.

Do you ever remember a time when a California Governor imposed his will on a locally-elected school board?

The Globe spoke with a former State legislator this week who said local school boards have 100% authority for their schools’ curriculum, and even have the ability to create testing. The lawmaker said Gov. Newsom really stepped in it this time, and may find himself on the other end of a lawsuit.

Notably, Gov. Newsom never apologized to the people of California for locking them up, destroying their businesses, causing serious mental harm and learning loss to their children, and being wrong about masks and vaccine mandates. Tyrants never apologize.

Newsom: Presidential-Candidate-in-Waiting

Newsom, who is obviously the Democrat Presidential-Candidate-in-Waiting should President Joe Biden become too ill or dementia-addled to run for reelection, is revealing his dark underbelly. Again.

We saw what an authoritarian and tyrant Newsom is when during the time of COVID madness, he ordered the entire state locked down for nearly three years, forced private sector businesses to close indefinitely, issued mask mandates indoors and outdoors, ordered all students ages 5-11 to receive COVID vaccinations in order to attend in-person school, and then mandated vaccines for all school children. His orders were enforced by local police  and public health officials who arrested surfers, people out walking alone on a beach, and businesses which refused to comply with his illogical orders.

Newsom even created laws illegally using his emergency powers – only the Legislature can create laws.

Assembly members James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley sued over Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “one man rule,”challenging whether he had the emergency authority to make law without legislative authority, using his emergency powers during the COVID shutdown of the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom issued 58 executive orders by the time Gallagher and Kiley filed their suit. Many of those decisions and executive orders were legally dubious if not outright unconstitutional, all under the guise of “public health.”

They won in State Super Court but Gov. Newsom and his legal team appealed Kiley and Gallagher’s trial court victory. This is what they wrote in their return response:

This case concerns a limited point of law: whether the California Constitution countenances a dictatorship. Gavin Newsom is no Caesar, but his legal theory in this case and ruling philosophy this year are that of dictator legibus faciendis. The Executive can make laws at will, and the participation of the Legislature is at his discretion.

They say in their response:

What is at issue is whether, in addition to this duly delegated authority, the Governor may lay claim to a form of “police power” that includes acts of purely legislative creation. Such power, if legitimized by this Court, would admit of no practical limitation. 

The appeals court oddly sided with Gallagher and Kiley, but kicked the case up to the Supreme Court, as Kiley noted:

“The Third District sided with me and James on almost every legal issue,” Assemblyman Kiley posted on Twitter. “Yet it somehow found a path to avoid limiting the Governor’s powers. This case will be decided by the California Supreme Court.”

The California Supreme Court – made up of Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov. Newsom appointees -eventually ruled against them, despite the law being very clear on a California Governor’s power – even during a state of emergency.

Newsom continued to balk on lifting the lockdowns and mandates on Californians while his children continued to attend private school, and he and the First Partner maintained an active social life, dining with friends at the chi-chi French Laundry in Napa Valley, vacationed in Montana, vacationed at a $29,000-per-night villa in Cabo San Lucas and traveled to Costa Rica.

As Gov. Newsom extended California’s COVID State of Emergency into its second year, he traveled the country on a book tour and took in an interview on The View.

As honest and hard working Californians remained trapped in their homes under his lockdown orders, California’s horrific crime wave achieved national attention, despite politicians’ attempts to deny this.

“The wave of group mob-style smash and grab robberies around the Golden State continued on in California over the Thanksgiving holiday period, resulting in the ramping up of police protection despite some departments facing strained resources following defunding efforts,” the Globe reported at that time.

Gov. Newsom did not conduct live, in-person press conferences throughout the lockdowns, and the Capitol press was mostly kept away from him – from March 2020 through February 2022. And he rarely had to answer a difficult question anyway.

The authoritarian Governor was remote and inaccessible for nearly three years.

Other acts of Tyranny 

Remember when as one of his first acts as governor, in 2019, Gov.  Newsom sued the Orange County city of Huntington Beach for failing to provide enough additional “affordable housing,” while his own home county of Marin enjoyed a moratorium on affordable housing building requirements until 2028, the Globe reported.

Newsom vowed that “some cities are refusing to do their part to address this crisis and willfully stand in violation of California law,” he said. “Those cities will be held to account.” Newsom’s overreach and meddling into local control issues ignored that Huntington Beach had already zoned and permitted 1,000 units of its 1,353 required.

Only, his own home county, left-leaning Marin, wasn’t held to account the way conservative Huntington Beach was.

And Newsom never stopped – in February of 2023, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Bonta once again harassed Huntington Beach in conservative Orange County over state affordable housing requirements after the city council voted to challenge the housing state laws aimed at forcing local cities to allow granny flats, (Accessory Dwelling Units).

Huntington Beach is a charter city which has more local controls, exempting it from some state zoning laws, according to a panel of the California 4th District Court of Appeal. The appeals court ruled in 2017 that charter cities like Huntington Beach can approve plans that don’t meet the state’s housing requirements and can eliminate sites zoned for affordable housing. The state appealed the ruling.

The Department of Housing and Community Development reported in 2019 that most of California city’s housing plans are in compliance, while 51 cities and counties were not, including Huntington Beach… and Selma, Orange Cove, Holtville, Lake County, Bradbury, Claremont, La Puente, Maywood, Montebello, Paramount, Rolling Hills, South El Monte, Westlake Village, Atwater… while all Marin County cities were listed in compliance.

That report is no longer available on the housing department website.

There are traits and behaviors common to tyrants:

Tyrants are shifty, they are slick and treacherous.

They’ll manipulate you to prevent you from figuring them out.

Tyrants want us confused.

To tyrants, winning is everything, and they will claim victory in every interaction by any means necessary.

Gavin Newsom’s behavior during and since Covid, and now with a disobedient school board, is tyrannical and ultimately dangerous. Whether he is trolling Red State Governors, or harassing cities in more conservative areas, or issuing his own edicts, or imposing lockdowns – all behaviors and decisions should have shown every Californian just how tyrannical and unreasonable our governor and his appointees are.

Far too many Californians appear to be apathetic to our individual liberties and that should be really concerning. Newsom and most other Democrat Governors became lockdown zealots … while Republican governors allowed their states to remain free while adopting and encouraging personal responsibility.

Such a contrast – freedom or servitude.

UPDATE: After the Globe published this article, Rep. Kevin Kiley posted this amazing exchange with Dr. Nat Malkus, a senior fellow and the deputy director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he specializes in empirical research on K-12 schooling.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe