MOORLACH UPDATE — Whistleblower Reaction — September 7, 2017

The Senate voted on nearly 200 bills and then adjourned for the week a few hours ago. The only bill a reporter asked my opinion on was SB 51. “Why did I vote against it?”

SB 51 addresses a certain category of whistleblowers. Having held this title for my efforts back in 1994, you should know that I like whistleblowers very much. Earlier this year, I wrote a bill to protect whistleblowers in college who were being persecuted, vilified and punished for their political beliefs by college professors and administrators. This was a very real problem in my district. See Senate Bill 677, the Student Whistleblower Protection Act.

Incidentally, my bill died at the hands of the legislator who authored SB 51, and she was the only opposing vote on SB 677 (it received 2 votes, but the other Senate Judiciary Committee members abstained). You’ve got to love the ironies up here in Sacramento (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Senate Bill 677 — April 6, 2017 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Whistleblower Protection Prevented — April 26, 2017).

While the reporter accurately reflects my comments, focusing on my concerns that there were negative fiscal impacts of the state of California absorbing work undertaken by the federal government, it must also be said that my legislative colleagues need to be a little more circumspect and less reactionary in the work we’re doing in the state capitol. SB 51 is another bill in a long list of anti-Trump measures that has no real bearing on fixing our poorly run state.

Yes, we need courageous people to stand up when government messes up, which is often enough. However, a new federal Administration has the ability to run its websites as it sees fit as long as it obeys all relevant public information and transparency laws.

In all seriousness, while this may be a problem for some, pulling politically controversial links claiming “scientific consensus” on climate change off of a federal government website does not rise to a level of concern for me. As far as I can tell, the information hasn’t disappeared and is available to those that need it. Indeed, all of the scientific data prepared by scientists, often with government grants in government institutions or institutions of higher learning, is redundantly saved and shared in numerous places and any concerns of it being lost are absurd and rise to the level of hyperbole. I tried to address this issue during the very predictable debate over cap and trade on my website, as I prefer providing more information to you, rather than less.

The Mercury News provides my response in the piece below. Next week we’re anticipating going through more than 300 more bills. The fun life continues.

California passes bill to

protect scientific data from

federal censorship

By kmurphy |
Bay Area News Group

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/09/06/california-passes-bill-to-protect-scientific-data-from-federal-censorship/

Soon after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, a page on climate change vanished from the White House website, sending a chill through the scientific community.

Within weeks, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, proposed a bill to protect whistleblowers and safeguard data collected by scientists, many of whom are worried that their research might be censored, rewritten or even destroyed for political reasons by those who have questioned the scientific consensus on climate change.

The Senate passed the latest version of Jackson’s proposal Wednesday on a mostly party-line vote. It easily cleared the Assembly on Tuesday, 59-13, with support from seven Republicans — including the Bay Area’s sole GOP lawmaker, Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon.

It now heads to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, who — given his international role in the battle against climate change — is expected to sign it.

“This bill was a direct response to the effort to censure and to silence the voice of science,” Jackson said in an interview Wednesday. “We will take it upon ourselves to try to preserve scientific data and information.”

Senate Bill 51, the Whistleblower and Public Data Protection Act, also would try to ensure that federal scientists and other public employees licensed in California do not lose their professional certification for reporting violations of the law. The measure directs California agencies to protect scientific data and would require the state’s secretary for environmental protection to, as Jackson’s office described it in a recent news release, “preserve scientific information and data and make it publicly available if it is at risk of being destroyed or censored by the Trump administration.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists — which published a scathing report in July that found the Trump administration had undermined the role of science in public policy, altered scientific content on websites and created a hostile environment for federal scientists — backed the bill.

“Science is the foundation of a strong democracy,” said Jason Barbose, Western states policy manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “That’s why it is important to protect scientists and their research. SB 51 takes concrete steps to protect federal scientists and scientific data from the Trump administration’s efforts to sideline it from important policy decisions that affect our health and communities.”

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has questioned the overwhelming scientific consensus about climate change, such as whether carbon dioxide is a major cause of global warming.

Most Senate Republicans voted against the bill in May and again on Wednesday.

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said the threat to scientific data described by some scientists is “not one of my core concerns.” He said he voted against the bill for budgetary reasons — something he said he tends to do for proposals aimed at giving state agencies new responsibilities.

“Existing law already provides adequate protection for licensees,” he said. “Why would I vote for something that’s already kind of redundant?”

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