It is nice to receive a shout out from time to time, on how I vote on bills. It’s important to be held accountable for my votes as well.
The OC Register’s editorial board provided insights that paralleled the positions I took on two budget bills, SB 78 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Health Insurance Mandate Penalty — June 25, 2019) and SB 103, in the first two pieces below.
The publisher of the Orange County Breeze shared her eloquent concerns on SB 360 in the third piece below. I have covered this bill as it went through the Senate Committee and Floor process (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Committee Season Has Started — April 3, 2019 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Sacred Votes — May 26, 2019).
I am very concerned about the constitutionality of SB 360, as the litigation costs to the taxpayers for a recent case was expensive ($3 million). But I’m also concerned about the root cause for this bill, with errant priests not being excommunicated, but merely transferred to different parishes around the nation (only to repeat their indiscretions). Consequently, I have abstained on voting on the bill so far.
The proposed Veterans Cemetery has a potential for some funding, but not enough to satisfactorily address the completion of one of the three potential sites (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Veterans Cemetery — March 25, 2019). AB 368’s focus on the most expensive of the three locations has been difficult for a number of my colleagues on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to understand. MyNewsLA covers Tuesday’s Committee meeting and the related dynamics in the fourth piece below.
For more on the contentiousness, the Orange County Grand Jury released its report on the topic this week and provides some curious recommendations (see http://www.ocgrandjury.org/pdfs/2018_2019_GJreport/2019-06-25_GJ_Veterans_Report.pdf).
Supporting our veteran community is one of my priorities. Consequently, I do not want them manipulated or used as pawns in personal agendas. If Sacramento is going to provide funding, then it should do it in total and do it in a location that works to the betterment of all the residents of the county.
Bringing back the individual mandate
On Monday, the California Legislature approved Senate Bill 78, which would bring back the least popular provision of the Affordable Care Act for Californians: the individual mandate.
In 2017, the individual mandate was scrapped by Congress as part of federal tax reform. But there’s no doubt that Covered California, the state’s health exchange, is broken, and Gov. Gavin Newsom sees the individual mandate as key to bringing down the cost of health insurance.
Under SB 78, people who don’t buy health insurance would be subject to penalties of $695 or 2% of their household income, whichever is larger.
Notably, while the Affordable Care Act offers subsidies to individuals making up to 400% of the federal poverty line, SB 78 would offer subsidies to those making up to 600% of the poverty line.
The consequences are clear: low-income people for whom not buying health insurance makes sense will subsidize people who make significantly more money than them.
“This trailer bill, if we pass it today, will take money away from people making $30,000 – $50,000 a year and give it to people making between $75,000 and $130,000 a year,” said Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear Lake, in opposition. “Colleagues, that makes no sense.”
In the state Senate, Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, raised similar concerns.
Since this is Sacramento we’re talking about, the bill cleared the Assembly by a vote of 57 to 14 and cleared the Senate by a vote of 28 to 11.
Whatever the intentions of supporters of this proposal, this plan to punish people who don’t buy insurance from one of a handful of big companies isn’t going to fix what ails Covered California.
In one sense, Newsom and state legislators are responding to a real problem. Health insurance really is too expensive, and medical costs really are rising too high. But these are the consequences of government distorting and rigging markets, the same approach that gave us the failed Obamacare system both parties now seek to replace.
And while piling more taxpayer- funded subsidies atop the government’s largesse list is never a good idea, it’s an even worse idea to fund expanded subsidies through yet another penalty instead of a standing budget surplus — especially a penalty imposed on shaky grounds in order to force people to pick market winners and losers and buy products they don’t necessarily want or need.
To be fair to Newsom, he’s been handed a less than ideal situation. But health care in California is going to remain a problem unless state and federal leaders walk away from our shambolic and expensive system in favor of restoring real competition that increases choice while lowering costs.
For now, it seems the California approach is to double down on more of the same, pouring more money into failing systems, this time by penalizing people for exercising their freedom of choice.
CCPOA gets its way in Sacramento deal
Public sector unions have far too much influence in state and local government, and last week, yet another example of that played out in the state Senate. At issue was the contract of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which represents the state’s prison guards.
The CCPOA spent nearly $3 million in support of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s gubernatorial bid, while also sometimes spending in support of Republicans. It got its reward in the form of a one-year contract with raises described by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office as having “weak justification” after finding “no evidence to justify (the) pay increase,” “no clear recruitment problem,” and “no clear retention problem.”
The LAO made similar observations about last year’s CCPOA contract, which the Legislature approved anyway.
This year’s contract, which will cost taxpayers over $130 million, also easily cleared the state Assembly on June 17, with the Assembly voting 75-0, with four members not voting.
The state Senate followed suit on Thursday, with members of both parties speaking in support of the measure.
This included new Sen. Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, who beat out fellow Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, earlier this month with the support of the CCPOA. Kiley, who voted against last year’s contract, didn’t vote this time.
Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, who has also touted support from CCPOA, also spoke in support of the contract. Wilk notably tried to ascribe to “media articles” the LAO’s findings, sidestepping the LAO’s findings in the process. Democrats spoke in support too, including state Sens. Holly Mitchell, Maria Elena Durazo and Bob Archuleta.
In a sense, it’s business as usual, with a big-spending public sector union getting yet another giveaway from state lawmakers. And it’s a reminder that the corrosive influence of public sector unions among both parties.
Credit should be given to Sens. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, for voting against the unnecessary giveaway to the CCPOA.
Until more legislators are able to make the correct, logical decisions in the best interests of taxpayers, Californians can expect more of the same.
Room with a view: Weaponizing a religious sacrament
It’s for the children, so it must be okay.
Senate Bill 360 changes the California Penal Code to require clergy hearing “penitential communications” to report persons who confess to child abuse or neglect.
The bill was introduced by California State Senator Jerry Hill (D-CA13). It was approved by the Senate on a vote of 30 ayes, 4 noes and passed to the Assembly. The Senators who voted no were Patricia Bates (R-CA36), Shannon Grove (R-CA16), Brian Jones (R-CA38), and Jeff Stone (R-CA28).
To my immense personal disappointment, local California State Senators Tom Umberg (D-CA34) and Ling Ling Chiang (R-CA29) voted aye.
(John Moorlach (R-CA37) did not vote. I am trusting that he had a good reason.)
Let’s get this out of the way right now: I do not support shielding anybody who abuses children.
What the bill if enacted would require
The bill amends the exemption for clergy in reporting suspected child abuse.
However, this law if enacted would meddle in a sacrament and violate freedom of religion. In short, it is unconstitutional.
According to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest of the bill:
Existing law, the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, makes certain persons, including clergy, mandated reporters. Under existing law, clergy are required to report whenever the clergy, in their professional capacity or within the scope of their employment, has knowledge of or observes a child whom the mandated reporter knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of child abuse or neglect, except when the clergy acquires the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect during a penitential communication. Failure by a mandated reporter to report an incident of known or reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor.
This bill would further define a penitential communication for purposes of the exception. The bill would also exempt from the exemption any penitential communication made between a clergy member and another person employed at the same facility or location as that clergy member, or between a clergy member and another clergy member. By redefining an exemption to a crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
This is an attempt to break the seal of confession. Despite the mealy-mouthed phrase “penitential communication,” this is aimed primarily at cracking open the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It directly conflicts with the First Amendment right of freedom of religion.
Any Catholic priest who breaks the seal of confession is automatically excommunicated. A priest answers to a Higher Authority than the State of California or the United States Constitution, and that doesn’t mean the Pope. Excommunicated implies that he could not licitly act as a priest. If he continued to perform priestly functions, he would be compounding his mortal sin.
Setting aside the Constitutional and religious issues, how would this be enforced? Will priests now be required to explicitly identify each penitent? Will logs of penitents be required?
And if breaking the seal of confession is desirable in the case of child abuse, why not also for murder or other serious crimes?
I urge our readers to take two steps immediately.
Second, email your State Assembly Member to express your opinion before the bill comes up for a vote. Residents of northwest Orange County can find information on our local elected officials page. Others can visit the California State Assembly website.
If the Assembly approves this bill, I expect Gov. Newsom to sign it despite his background as a (lapsed) Catholic. But you should email him, too.
OC Vets Cemetery Clears Hurdle, But Still Dogged by Politics
State lawmakers this week took another step toward funding a veterans cemetery within the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, but Supervisor Don Wagner said Wednesday he hopes to keep pushing for the burial grounds to be located in Anaheim Hills.
Wagner, who was mayor of Irvine before being elected in March to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, said years of infighting over sites in Irvine should be abandoned in favor of a Gypsum Canyon site that is envisioned as a cemetery for veterans, their loved ones and others involved in the Korean or Vietnam wars.
“Irvine can’t get its act together, they can’t figure it out, and the one location (former Irvine mayor) Larry Agran keeps pushing is way too expensive and doesn’t make any sense, so I’ve pretty much thrown my hands up in the air with Irvine since we already have a perfectly good site in Anaheim Hills,” Wagner told City News Service.
On Tuesday, the state Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee voted to approve a bill by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, that would designate the preferred cemetery site as 125 acres within the Orange County Great Park that used to be part of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. It’s known as the Amended and Restated Development Agreement, or ARDA, site.
“I think the state is pushing the ARDA site because Sharon Quirk-Silva has been trying to get something done for the longest time and has not been able to because Irvine hasn’t been able to, and I think she is fed up with the issue — to heck with it, let’s go with ARDA,” Wagner said.
Quirk-Silva did not dispute that contention and said it was up to Irvine officials to make it happen. Irvine officials tried to pitch a new “horseshoe” site at the Great Park right before this week’s committee hearing, she said.
That site — called the golf site since it was zoned for a golf course — is backed by the Great Park developers, who have offered $28 million for the project, Quirk-Silva said.
Wagner said the main problem with the ARDA site is a $90 million estimate to clean it up. “So if you get $20 million this year and $20 million next year … they have to do this four more times,” he said.
“If everybody steps back and says, you know what, it is too big a nut to crack in Irvine so let’s everybody agree that for the good of the veterans let’s go with Anaheim Hills because that can be done tomorrow,” Wagner said.
Anaheim officials have no objections and the county board is backing the Gypsum Canyon site, Wagner said.
Wagner is pushing to have Quirk-Silva’s bill amended to have the Gypsum Canyon site funded instead. But he said he believes there are some politicians in Irvine who just want the issue to run on into the next election cycle and after.
“They’re using the veterans as pawns,” Wagner said.
The supervisor said he is hopeful that Sen. Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, who is a veteran, will be receptive to the Anaheim Hills site. Umberg has backed Quirk-Silva’s bill, along with Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim.
Quirk-Silva said one of the main issues with the Gypsum Canyon site is that it would not be a strictly veterans cemetery as proposed.
“Unless it is a state or federally run cemetery, then the military people could not use their benefits there, so that’s the biggest thing,” Quirk-Silva said.
The difference in cost between a military-funded burial and a private one can run as high as $8,000, she said.
There are also some questions about whether the Gypsum Canyon site would be a challenge to modify for a cemetery because of its hills.
“There’s still quite a bit of other issues such as getting in the roads and infrastructure and also that it’s on a hilly grade that would be pretty difficult to work with,” she said. “It doesn’t mean it would be impossible, but there still would be a cost to use that site.”
Quirk-Silva also said an expert has advised that it might not cost up to $90 million to clean up the ARDA site; that money could potentially be saved by adding soil instead of digging up the contaminants.
Quirk-Silva said she would like a “face-to-face” meeting among the stakeholders to discuss the newly proposed site in Irvine. But she said the horseshoe shape of that site might make it harder to accommodate a cemetery.
Quirk-Silva said she has an open mind on Gypsum Canyon, but wants to keep working on an Irvine site.
“If we absolutely can’t get anywhere with Irvine, maybe we go down that pathway,” Quirk-Silva said. “This has been sadly more political than I think anybody envisioned, especially myself.”
Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, agreed, saying he has been trying to alert lawmakers in Sacramento voting on the issue that “it’s a little contentious down in the district.”
Moorlach said he has seen an estimate that it would cost $58 million to remediate the newly proposed golf site in Irvine.
“Some of the veterans are saying we should just go with the golf course site because at least we’re getting closer to achievability,” Moorlach said.
Moorlach also noted that Arlington and the cemetery in Normandy, France, are hilly, “so it seems to me a little more dramatic and inspirational” to build the cemetery in Anaheim Hills.
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