Abominations Dodged, Abominations Passed

Photo: Josh Arason

Photo: Josh Arason

The Legislature has wrapped up its work, passing on a passel of truly bad bills to Gov. Brown, who will sign most of them. A few truly abominable bills didn’t pass, thankfully. Here’s the rundown:

Abominations Passed

California is on its way to once again having the most onerous gun control laws in the nation, as these bills passed:

  • SB 374 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento — would add all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines to the state’s list of banned assault weapons.
  • SB 475 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco — would ban gun shows at the Cow Palace exhibition hall for all intents and purposes, since its requires approval from San Francisco and San Mateo supervisors for such shows.
  • SB 683 by Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego — would require owners of long guns to earn safety certificates like those already required of handgun owners.
  • AB 48 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley — would ban conversion kits that allow people to turn regular magazines into high-capacity magazines.
  • AB 180 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland — would give Oakland an exemption from state pre-emption so it can pass its own stricter gun registration or licensing statutes.
  • AB 711 by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-South Gate — would ban use of lead ammunition in hunting. One of my clients, Tejon Ranch, jumped the gun on this one (pardon the pun), banning lead ammo a number of years ago in order to protect condors from lead poisoning they were getting from consuming lead shot in carrion they were eating. That’s great, truly, but I worry that anti-gun forces now have an easy lift to find reasons to ban copper and other types of ammo as well.

Other abominations:

  • Planned Parenthood-sponsored AB 154, would allow nurses, midwives and other non-doctor medical professionals to perform abortions in Planned Parenthood clinics – saving the big abortion group big bucks – and elsewhere.
  • AB 10 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville — would hike the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $9 next July and to $10 in January 2016. Gov. Brown has signaled enthusiasm for this bill, which (natch) will give California the highest minimum wage in the land,. And that will make California less competitive. Fortunately, an indexing provision that would have resulted in automatic increases was dropped.
  • SB 4 by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas — would impose regulations on fracking and other alternative means of extracting oil and gas. Most fracking in California occurs 1,000 feet or so below aquifers, so the risk of damage by fracking is tiny compared to the economic benefits fracking will bring. Greens opposed this bill because they thought it didn’t go far enough, but they needn’t  worry: This is California where regulations just get tougher and tougher, until they go far beyond what logic and science would dictate.
  • AB 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco — the TRUST Act, would partially withdraw California’s cooperation in the federal Secure Communities deportation program. The California Immigrant Policy Center, which would like to see illegal immigrants treated as citizens (at a minimum), loves the bill: “The TRUST Act limits cruel and costly requests from immigration authorities to detain people in local jails for extra time, and local expense, just for deprotation [sic] purposes.” In other words, lawful jailing of illegal immigrants pending deportation is now unlawful in California.
  • More notoriously on the immigration front, AB 60 by Alejo would let illegal immigrants living in California obtain driver’s licenses. Brown has signaled he will sign it, which would break his campaign pledge to fight drivers licenses for illegals. Another slide down the slippery slope to no borders.

Abominations on Ice

Before popping open the champagne, remember that any of these bills not passed by the Legislature could come back next year – and several likely will:

These gun control bills didn’t make it on their first try:

  • SB 47 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco — would have banned “bullet buttons” that allow fast swapping of rifle magazines.
  • SB 53 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles — would have required background checks for ammunition purchases.
  • SB 396 by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley — would have forced Californians to give up all ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, no matter when they were bought. Its a short step from being forced to turn in your gun components to being forced to turn in your guns.

Also on ice:

  • One of the worst bills of the session, SB 323 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, didn’t make it this year. It would have revoked the tax-exempt status of any “public charity youth organization,” such as the Boy Scouts, that discriminates on the basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality or religion.
  • Some may think I’m out of my gourd saying SB 135 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys  is an abomination, since it would require that the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services develop a comprehensive earthquake early-warning system. What could be wrong with that? Well, for starters, there currently is no feasible earthquake early-warning system to install. It would be smarter to watch China and Japan, which are dumping billions into developing a system, to see if they come up with something that works. If they do, we can copy it and save the billions California would waste on overwrought systems that don’t work, as is our tradition.
  • AB 976 by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego — would have allowed the California Coastal Commission to impose fines. The Commission is, as I wrote in Crazifornia, already the Star Chamber of the coast. More power is something it does not need.

The Democrats and their friends in the media insist on calling this session a moderate one, saying they restrained themselves from charting too Progressive a course in order to protect their chances in 2014′s elections. So, this mess is moderate, Crazifornia style.

 

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The “California Miracle” Media Frenzy

Rolling Stone BomberRolling Stone, the music magazine with a longstanding hard-left view of politics (infamously evidenced by the accompanying cover), has gone mainstream.

Like dozens of mainstream media before it, it is hero-worshiping Jerry Brown, praising him for the “miraculous” economic rebound California is enjoying. Before we question how miraculous it may be, let’s let Tim Dickenson, the author of “Jerry’ Brown’s Tough-Love Miracle” in the current issue of Rolling Stone, explain just what Jerry’s pulled off:

America’s shrewdest elder statesmen blazed a best-worst way out of California’s economic morass. With a stiff cocktail of budget cuts and hard-won new taxes, Brown has not only zeroed out the deficit, he’s also begun paying down the debt. “Jerry Brown’s leadership is a rebuttal to the failed policies of Republicans in Washington,” says Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress. “California is proving you can have sane tax systems, raise revenues, eliminate structural deficits and have economic growth.”

Fed up with the state’s own obstructionist Republicans, California voters have even given Brown a Democratic supermajority in the state legislature. As a result, the Golden State is now reasserting itself as a proving ground for the kind of bold ideas that Republicans have roadblocked in Washington – including a cap-and-trade carbon market, high-speed rail and education-funding reform.

Nobody moveAs an obstructionist Republican myself, I understand the courage it takes – and ridicule it engenders – to stand in front of a run-away train like California, hold up your measly skin-and-bone hand against the juggernaut, and scream “Halt!” I get the motivation behind trying to stop giving the state more money to spend when it has such a robust history of blowing through every penny it’s got and having less to show for it than a sailor waking up with a crippling hangover and a budding case of the clap.

Be that as it may, Dickenson is right. California voters did give the Democrats a super-majority, which in turn gives Brown everything he needs to create his legacy. Republican-weary journalists around the nation responded joyfully to last November’s election results, heralding a turn-around in California with stories that, like Dickenson’s are designed to mute small government, anti-tax Republicans everywhere.

I’m not grumbling about a better California economy – far from it. When the unemployment rate falls from 12.5 percent to 8.7 percent, as California’s has, it means formerly desperate people are getting by again, children are eating better, and businesses are getting back customers they lost. (It also means a lot of Californians gave up on the state and left for more job-friendly places, of course, but why bother pointing that out?) What I’m grumbling about is how rose-tinted Dickenson’s glasses are.

He praises Brown on the environment while ignoring how California’s toughest-in-the-nation environmental regulations, along with its Progressive tax structure, drive businesses out of state.

He loves how California is leading the way to Obamacare, while ignoring the fact that major insurers are bailing from the state’s plan, raising questions about its viability.

He gives Brown good marks on education because spending is up, but ignores the fact that California’s schools continue to slide. Eighty-six percent of schools in the state fell short of No Child Left Behind goals this year.

And worst in the world of objective reporting, he fails to mention any of the many troubles that threaten California’s future economic vitality.  The voter-approved 2012 tax hike Brown championed isn’t permanent, so the current bump in revenues will drop in just over three years when the sales tax increase ends, and peter out the following year when the sales tax increase ends.

Meanwhile, Brown is not attending to the state’s fundamental fiscal instability. He isn’t proposing changes to the state’s over-reliance on income taxes on the wealthy. His lifelong fondness of public employee unions is keeping him from addressing the unfunded liabilities the state, its counties and cities carry in their employee pension plans. And his long-running, red-hot love affair with Mother Nature doesn’t bode well for any meaningful effort to make the state less regulated and therefore more business-friendly. In fact, the state’s renewable energy goals and carbon taxes are going to drive up energy costs (we’re already $3.90/kilowatt hour more expensive than the national average) and make electricity less reliable. That will force even more businesses to leave.

Rolling Stone can have its fun and write happily about all the cool stuff that happens when Republicans are minimized to irrelevance. Let’s see how well they cover the impending, inevitable consequences of having too many Democrats in the wheelhouse.

Raisin Cain

Often the federal government is just as crazy as California’s – especially the stuff that happens when a Progressive president is in power. Here’s a case in point.

Back in 1937, during FDR’s Progressive presidency, government manipulation of everything was robust, to put it mildly. One of the experiments of the day was to create the National Raisin Reserve, out of a belief that government planning led to healthier markets than the free market could ever hope to achieve. The Reserve’s “business” was to tax, or confiscate, a percentage of each raisin farmer’s crop every year and keep those raisins off the U.S. market in order to ensure that stupid, greedy farmers wouldn’t flood the market, thereby voluntarily lowering their income.

(As a not-to-curious aside, the Washington Post, which very curiously broke this story, attributed the National Raisin Reserve to Pres. Truman, but in 1937, FDR was president.)

Marvin HorneEnter Fresno raisin farmer Marvin Horne, the frightened looking fellow there on the right.  Until 2002, Horne dutifully put up with this authoritarian silliness, then stopped rendering his raisins unto Caesar as a protest. Here’s how the Washington Post put it:

In the world of dried fruit, America has no greater outlaw than Marvin Horne, 68.

Horne, a raisin farmer, has been breaking the law for 11 solid years. He now owes the U.S. government at least $650,000 in unpaid fines. And 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins, roughly equal to his entire harvest for four years.

His crime? Horne defied one of the strangest arms of the federal bureaucracy — a farm program created to solve a problem during the Truman administration, and never turned off.

He said no to the national raisin reserve.

“I believe in America. And I believe in our Constitution. And I believe that eventually we will be proved right,” Horne said recently, sitting in an office next to 20 acres of ripening Thompson grapes. “They took our raisins and didn’t pay us for them.”

The U.S. Supreme Court recently sided partially with Horne, sending his case back down the ladder for reconsideration. If he wins, it’s a great victory for America. If he loses,

“If we lose, we’re bankrupt. We won’t have a pot to piss in,” Horne said. He thinks he would be liable for about $3 million, including fines and the cash value of those raisins. “No. I don’t want to even think about it. Would you?”

I agree. If Horne loses, I don’t even want to think about it. It would just be one more piece of evidence that America, like California, is still going full-bore towards oblivion.

(I’ve simplified the story somewhat, leaving out details about how the National Raisin Reserve has morphed over the years. Read the Post story if you want the whole picture – but that’s really just footnote stuff, and doesn’t change the basic story one iota.)

Thanks to Crazifornia fan and long-time friend Lou Franson for the tip!

Not Blowing In The Wind

There was a bill in the California Assembly that would push California’s the percentage of renewable energy utilities are forced to use from its current 30% to 50%. It’s not going anywhere … yet … but it stands as testimony to environmental blindness.

California’s electric utilities are having a difficult and terribly expensive time trying to reach the 30% renewable energy goal. Trying to get that much expensive wind and solar power into their portfolios is already making electricity more expensive and less reliable – and there’s no evidence its doing a thing to save the planet from climate change. Nevertheless Adam Gray, a Central Valley Democrat, wants to up the state’s game to even more unreasonable levels.

He and his allies might want to read this:

14,000 Abandoned Wind Turbines in the USA

wind farm ruinThe US has had wind farms since 1981, what the left and the green movement don’t want to talk about regarding windmills is (as usual) the truth. The truth is: windmills, like solar panels, break down. And like solar panels, windmills produce less energy before they break down than the energy it took to make them. That’s the part liberals forget: making windmills and solar panels takes energy, energy from coal, oil, and diesel, energy that extracts and refines raw materials, energy that transports those materials to where they will be re-shaped into finished goods, energy to manufacture those goods. More energy than those finished windmills and solar panels will ever produce.

There are many hidden truths about the world of wind turbines from the pollution and environmental damage caused in China by manufacturing bird choppers, the blight on people’s lives of noise and the flicker factor and the countless numbers of birds that are killed each year by these blots on the landscape. The symbol of Green renewable energy, our saviour from the non existent problem of Global Warming, abandoned wind farms are starting to litter the planet as globally governments cut the subsidies taxes that consumers pay for the privilege of having a very expensive power source that does not work every day for various reasons like it’s too cold or the wind speed is too high.

The US experience with wind farms has left over 14,000 wind turbines abandoned and slowly decaying, in most instances the turbines are just left as symbols of a dying Climate Religion, nowhere have the Green Environmentalists appeared to clear up their mess or even complain about the abandoned wind farms. …

The problem with wind farms when they are abandoned is getting the turbines removed, as usual there are no Green environmentalists to be seen. The City of Palm Springs was forced to enact an ordinance requiring their removal from San Gorgonio. But California’s Kern County, encompassing the Tehachapi area, has no such law. Imagine the outraged Green chorus if those turbines were abandoned oil drilling rigs.

The truth is: wind energy is just a tax scam. Ben Lieberman, a senior policy analyst focusing on energy and environmental issues for the Heritage Foundation, is not surprised. He asks:

“If wind power made sense, why would it need a government subsidy in the first place? It’s a bubble which bursts as soon as the government subsidies end.”

Remember: Liberal politicians are very good at not letting mere facts get in the way of their efforts to reshape California.

California’s Mullet Budget

It’s all hoopla in Sacramento today as Jerry Brown and the Legislative leaders sign the 2013-2014 California state budget into law. Jerry calls the balanced budget a sign that things are rosy in California again.

I say rose is just another shade of red.

The budget keeps the state employee pension gravy train intact, along with its $500 billion dollar hit on future generations. It doesn’t do nearly enough to address our debt, which is now pegged at $100,000 per California household. And it keeps the multi-billion-dollar boondoggle known as California High Speed Rail on track.

But wait, it gets even worse than that.

mulletThe guy with the best line about this dangerously expensive sham of a budget is Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo who called it “the mullet budget” – Conservative in front, very liberal in back.

He pointed to how the budget defers the restart of several expensive social welfare programs that were cut during the recession until the 11th month of the fiscal year. If those very expensive, very ongoing programs were implemented at the start of the budget year, or even  half way through the budget year, the budget would not be balanced. So … conservative up front, liberal in the back. Brilliant!

Of course, the next California budget will have to start with the assumption those programs will be in effect for all 12 months, so a new trick will be needed to balance the books. Maybe a new tax on millionaires ….

For more on what’s wrong with the budget Brown and the Democrat super-majority are pretending to be so happy about, read this post by Katy Grimes at CalWatchdog.

 

Murdering Democrats

Feinstein gun controlAs California’s senior senator leads the Congressional campaign to impose more gun controls and Sacramento’s Democrat-dominated legislature considers a bunch of new gun control measures, perhaps they would be interested in learning more about the political leanings of recent mass-murdering wackos. This information is from a letter to the editor forwarded to us by a friend:

  • Ft. Hood shooter: Registered Democrat
  • Columbine shooters: Too young to vote; both families were registered Democrats
  • Virginia Tech shooter: Wrote hate mail to Pres. Bush, registered Democrat
  • Colorado theater shooter: Registered Democrat, worked on Obama campaign, Occupy Wall Street participant
  • Connecticut school shooter: Registered Democrat, hated Christians

Hmmm.

(I have not documented the letter-writer’s claims independently. If you have information counter to this, please let me know.)

Small Respect for Small Business

Cagle - Fleeing California

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) recently tried and failed to get the California Assembly to pass a resolution in support of small business. Democrats in the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy killed the resolution on on orders from Assembly leader John Perez (D-Los Angeles) and replaced it with a new resolution.

The new resolution transformed the specific pro-small-business recommendations Allen had included in his resolution into platitudes that included no hint that state taxes, laws and regulations might actually hinder small businesses.  Undeterred, Allen offered an amendment which would have added this language:

California’s policymakers can act to relieve the uncertainty of doing business in this state by keeping taxes low, fair, stable and predictable, by reducing the regulatory and litigation costs of operating a business, by investing in public and private works that provide the backbone for economic growth, and by ensuring the availability of high-quality skilled employees.

What a good bunch of ideas! That’s why, as Katy Grimes reports at Fox & Hounds, “Democrats, led by Majority Floor Leader Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, killed Allen’s amendments in a hostile parliamentary move and vote.”

Heaven forbid that California should do anything to support small businesses – the employers of 52 percent of the state’s workforce.

 

Jerry Brown’s Zombie Budget

Gov. Brown presentation of the annual May revise of the state budget this morning wasn’t the duck-and-shuffle we’ve grown used to, in which our gov du jour confesses that revenues weren’t nearly as good as “projected” (read: in our wildest dreams) when the budget was first released in January, then launches into a long list of proposed cuts.

PlagueZombiesNope, the Prop 30 tax increase and an improved California economy have the state economy up and walking again … if a bit zombie-like. Brown led the zombies with a dreary but true warning that the economy is still under threat, with lots of stuff at the federal level (sequestration key among them) trickling down to hurt the state.

There’s also plenty wrong in California, as it trudges along dead-eyed and scary with a burden of up to $1.1 trillion of combined state and local government debt, and an over-sized, over-paid, over-coddled and under-performing quarter million state employees. We’re also waiting to see if the recent tax hikes and California’s ongoing regulatory zealotry will increase the exodus of business owners and the wealthy from the state, taking their tax payments with them.

Dem Response: Polite Hostility

The Democrat super-majority knows it has to say it’s dedicated to not squandering the current cash flow, but look at their reactions and you see some between-the-lines and not so between-the-lines clues that they are cued up and ready to spend, baby, spend. All quotes are from the SacBee.

I agree we must aggressively pay down our state’s debt and set aside money for a reserve, but there’s a disappointing aspect to this proposal. It’s important that we also begin making up for some of the damage done to tens of thousands of Californians. – Sen. Pres. Pro Tem  Darryl Steinberg

Our economy is showing signs of recovery but our budget is sending us mixed signals. The modest surplus we now possess took a lot of sacrifice to obtain and we cannot squander it. With many Californians still out of work, this budget is not just about paying down debt and saving money for a rainy day. It is also about growing our economy and broadening opportunities for Californians to succeed through education and a better environment for small business. – Assembly Budget Committee chair Bob Blumenfield

The May Revise continues to shortchange the most vulnerable in our state–such as those who need health care, child care, access to justice, or essential support services to escape poverty. – Dem Assemblyman Robert Dickinson

Mr. Dickinson, have you not heard that California spends three times more per capita on social welfare programs than it should, based on national per capita averages? We need to shortchange many welfare recipients more, not pay them more.

California’s fundamentals are still wrong. We are too dependent on taxing the wealthy, we are a long way from getting control over burgeoning pension and benefit costs, far too much education funding is wasted on fulfilling unnecessary reporting mandates from Sacramento and paying under-performing teachers, and, as mentioned above, our social welfare programs need to be brought in line with other states’.

But at least the budget’s in the black for a change.

 

New OC Dem Logo – Drug Users?

In a communique – that’s a sufficiently leftist word for “newsletter,” right? – the Democratic Party of Orange County announced a new logo today. That’s it up above. Here’s what they have to say about it:

The design may look familiar to you as it echoes the look of the national party’s logo but with an “orange flavor.” With the new energy and leadership within the county party, it seemed time to update the look of the logo with a design that is fresh and clean yet reflects a recognizable “brand.”

That’s nice. But I look at it and I see “OD” and wonder if maybe the Dems have finally overdosed on liberal platitudes and expensive progressive wealth transfer schemes.

But hey, logos are very subjective, right? I’m sure they don’t see it that way at all.

Time to Stop Bashing California?

WoodshedCrazifornia has been taken to the woodshed by liberal columnist Froma Harrop. Her piece Thursday in Real Clear Politics, Tough Times for California Bashers, declares:

[W]hen the Golden State conspicuously succeeds, California bashers find themselves at a loss. Until recently mired in deep budget deficits, California’s general fund is set to end next year in a surplus.
Surely deeper evil lies ready to bubble up, the bashers warn. To them, California resembles the phantom Rollo Tomasi from “L.A. Confidential” — the criminal “who gets away clean.”

It must especially pain conservatives that sunnier economic news partly results from voters directly rejecting Republican politicians and their agenda. A simplification here, but California’s famously dysfunctional politics have reflected Democrats’ desire to spend on certain public goals and Republican resistance to raising revenues needed to fund them.

So what did the voters do? Last November, they approved a temporary tax hike on themselves, expected to add $6 billion annually in revenues for the next seven years. And they handed Democrats a two-thirds supermajority in the state legislature, enabling them to raise taxes without Republican support.

Cornered by good news, some conservatives need to lash out.

I confess, I do lash a bit, but no, I’m hardly at a loss. Behind the liberals’ rush to launch into a rowdy rendition of Happy Days are Here Again remains a wealth of inconvenient truths they would rather ignore. Harrop certainly does.

She passes off the flight of companies and capital (both fiscal and intellectual) from the state with a Scarlet O’Hara-esque, “Right, and they’re no longer sewing sweatshirts in Manhattan or butchering cows in Chicago.” Cute, but it doesn’t turn the moving vans around. She lampoons our concerns about the costs inherent with the shift to subsidy-needing alternative energies without admitting our power costs are the highest in the nation and no one is predicting them to drop any time soon.

And she doesn’t even mention underfunded public employee retirement and health plans which will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to make whole. That’s billions, Froma, hundreds of ‘em. Oops. Was I lashing?

I could go on, but I sense you’re probably ahead of me on this anyway. If you’re not and still believe the Jerry Brown Choir that all is now better in California, I suggest you read Wayne Lusvardi’s response to Harrop at CalWatchdog, Is CA Really Barreling Down Recovery Road?