MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 and SB 689 — March 3, 2019

The OC Register’s second Sunday editorial provides a balanced perspective on SB 319, my High Speed Road proposal. It is the first piece below. The distances that I was hoping to cover with new lanes may be a little more limited than what the author provides, but the discussion is refreshing.

As for the attention this bill has received, also see:

* MOORLACH UPDATE — First American Autobahn? — February 27, 2019

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Fast Track for Charter Schools — February 22, 2019

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Oakland Unified School District — February 21, 2019

* MOORLACH UPDATE — High Speed Road Idea — February 20, 2019

* MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 High Speed Road — February 19, 2019

Dealing with the lane issue, The Mercury News has a regular column for car drivers, Mr. Roadshow, that deals with this crux of the matter from a Bay Area perspective. The fact that there are only two lanes and no serious efforts to slow drivers down on Interstate 5 in the Central Valley, makes the point of my proposal in another balanced approach.

The third piece is from MyNewsLA, courtesy of City News Service, and provides the details of my introduction of SB 689 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 689 – Needle Exchange — March 1, 2019).

Autobahn bill opens new freeway debate

For a measure with little chance of passage in the Legislature, Senate Bill 319 has gotten an amazing amount of excited, statewide attention. Sponsored by Orange County Republican State Sen. John Moorlach, the bill would add a total of four dedicated highway lanes with unlimited speed limits along Interstate 5 from Mexico to Oregon, and along state Route 99, from south of Bakersfield to Red Bluff.

Although the bill doesn’t detail the proposed costs of building autobahn-style lanes, the money would come from the state cap-and-trade fund — and replace the planned $77 billion high-speed-rail system. Amid cost overruns and engineering hurdles, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced plans to scale back the bullet-train boondoggle, which leaves an opening for new transportation concepts.

Californians are hungry for forward-thinking thought experiments. For too long, the focus of the state’s transportation planning has been to prod residents out of their cars and into supposedly “greener” rail and bus alternatives. For example, the Los Angeles transportation authority last week voted to impose new fees, taxes and tolls on private driving and ridesharing. Yet such punishment-based social engineering isn’t working, as transit ridership keeps falling.

The California Dream — and our current economy — is dependent on mobility. Transit has its place, especially in high-density cities such as San Francisco, but it is slow and antiquated. SB 319 reminds us that transportation projects can move us around quickly and still be safe and environmentally friendly. Data from Germany’s autobahn and Montana’s past experiment of no posted speed limits show that higher speeds don’t necessarily increase danger.

Environmentally speaking, bumper-to-bumper traffic and other forms of congestion boost greenhouse-gas emissions. Fast lanes would reduce those slow crawls and move more people than the proposed high-speed rail system promised. Think about what the lanes mean for the future. Autonomous vehicle technology is advancing rapidly. Dedicated lanes would be the most practical way to accommodate growth in that technology. Whatever its fate, Moorlach’s bill is widening debate. Why should those discussions only revolve around getting people out of their cars?

No speed limit on new lanes on I-5 is proposed

By grichards | Bay Area News Group

Q: Do you have any estimate on the cost of widening Interstate 5 between here and Los Angeles to four lanes each way?

Jim Norvell, San Jose

A: Oh, wow. Try several billion dollars. The typical cost is $1 million for a single lane, but numerous overpasses and bridges on the nearly 400-mile route would need upgrading. State Sen. John Moorlach has introduced a bill for construction of two additional traffic lanes in both directions of Interstate 5 and Highway 99 from the Grapevine to Sacramento — with no speed limits on those new lanes. Give Moorlach credit for thinking out of the box but don’t expect his plan to go very far in the legislative process.

Q: After a round trip on Interstate 5 to Los Angeles it became apparent to me there is a new, but unpublicized California savings regimen in place: I-5 is mostly devoid of CHP patrol cars. We only saw one on the entire 800-mile round trip. And as for those “Patrolled by Aircraft” signs on I-5, totally bogus, I have never seen aircraft overhead. Ever.

To sarcastically promote tourism, I propose that I-5 now be billed as the “Golden State Autobahn”. Replace the quaint, but ineffectual 70-mph speed limit signs with “suggested speeds” signs of 80-90 mph to comport to what it is now. During my I-5 excursion, I traveled at just under 80 mph and was relentlessly passed by waves of cars traveling at 90 with gusts of over 100 mph. I-5 patrolled by CHP? I think not.

Tony Favero, Half Moon Bay

A: While speeding is rampant on I-5, crashes are not higher than on similar roads.

Q: Why not just build truck passing lanes on I-5? That would be a big help.

Fred Reyes, Danville

A: The state monitors expansion projects where the benefit to cost ratio is highest. That tends to be in urban areas where traffic volumes are highest and congestion most prevalent. Bottom line: The state thinks passing lanes are a good idea on urban freeways like I-580 and I-80, but it is not studying any project like you suggest on I-5 now or in the near future.

Q: Interstate 5 is the major artery between the largest cities in the state. Only two lanes in each direction with the slow lane being in such bad condition that tractor-trailers, on vast expanses of the road, drive in the fast lane to avoid the potholes and failing road. Try traveling that road at 5 p.m. on a Sunday. It’s an absolute embarrassment to the state and completely the fault of the failed Neanderthals in Sacramento.

B. Lugarmo

A: It may take two to three decades to get a third lane each way. Maybe by then we’ll have flying cars.


Gary Richards has covered traffic and transportation in the Bay Area as Mr. Roadshow since 1992. Prior to that he was an assistant sports editor at the paper from 1984-1987. He started his journalism career as a sports editor in Iowa in 1975.

Moorlach Proposes Needle Exchange Legislation



Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, Friday unveiled legislation that would allow cities to have more say over state-approved needle-exchange programs such as the one proposed in Orange County last year that was defeated in court.

Orange County successfully convinced a Superior Court judge in November to issue an injunction preventing a nonprofit from operating a program in Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Orange that was authorized by the California Department of Public Health’s Office of AIDS.

“Maybe there’s a better way to do this,” Moorlach said. “If you’re a city and you believe that a needle-exchange program is helpful or whatever, then just pass a resolution or an ordinance and the Department of Public Health can send a nonprofit into that city. So what we’re doing is trying to get a protocol for collaboration here. Why should a city have to go to court, for crying out loud?”

Cities in the state are “just asking for tools,” Moorlach said.

The lawmaker said he does not believe needle-exchange programs are the best ways to handle drug addiction.

“Most people think addicts should go to a 12-step program, then you abstain, admit you have a problem and work on it,” Moorlach said. “Providing needles seems counter-intuitive, and, really, is it an exchange or a mill?”

Moorlach also echoed criticism of some opponents of the programs that the needles are not disposed of properly.

“You find them in the parks, on the beaches, in the libraries,” he said.

Supporters of the proposed Orange County program said past efforts were aimed at providing incentive to addicts to turn in used needles to dispose of them properly. They argued that clean needles cut down on communicable diseases.

Moorlach noted that Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer pointed out at a news conference on the legislation Friday in the city of Orange that most retail chain pharmacies provide needles already.

“So why have a mobile unit come through town when your local drug store can take care of it for you,” Moorlach said. “So it’s not like we’re shutting something down. We’re just trying to provide some ground rules.”


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MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 689 – Needle Exchange — March 1, 2019

This morning we introduced SB 689, addressing needle and syringe exchange programs, at a news conference in front of the Orange City Hall.

Presenters included Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, Orange Mayor Mark Murphy, Anaheim City Councilman Trevor O’Neil, Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Sandra Genis, and Tamara Jimenez of the Anaheim Lighthouse Treatment Center. Orange City Councilman Chip Monaco was also present in support.

The bill is simple. The State Department of Public Health can allow a nonprofit to come into a city that has adopted a resolution or ordinance authorizing needle exchanges.

We’re simply asking for a protocol for collaboration and an appropriate etiquette between Sacramento and California’s 482 cities. Hopefully, this will reduce the need for future litigation, which is costly.

For those requiring needles, they are currently being dispensed by local pharmacies. So, this effort is not stifling a strategy. It just allows for local control in implementing it. KNX AM 1070 covers the details in the first piece below. My editorial submission to the OC Register is provided in the second piece below.

The third piece below mentions another effort of mine, SB 585 (Steinberg), that has recently been judged as a helpful tool in adopting Laura’s Law in 19 other counties (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Joint Author Details — July 7, 2018).

This OC Register in-depth piece provides a contrast to SB 689. One amazing sentence explains it all: “Yet many counties with the highest drug overdose death rates in California do not yet have Laura’s Law on the books.”


CA Lawmaker Wants to Give Cities More Authority Over State-Run Needle Exchange Programs

A state lawmaker is looking to give cities more authority over state-run needle exchange programs.

After the state Department of Public Health authorized the ability to operate the programs, mobile needle exchanges began popping in local communities.

“They were concerned about the unintended consequences of now more needles being in parks and libraries,” said State Senator John Moorlach.

His Bill 689 comes on the heels of a judge’s ruling temporarily blocking a non-profit from operating a needle exchange in Santa Ana after Orange County officials filed suit over it.

“They found needles in library books and janitors were getting poked,” he said.

Under his bill, should it be approved, non-profits would not be allowed to operate needle exchanges in city’s unless there is a city resolution or ordinance authorizing the program.

Local control is key to making needle exchange programs work


A sad development that has exploded across the country in recent years has become known as “the Opioid Epidemic,” especially among young people. That’s why I have introduced Senate Bill 689, which establishes guidelines and increases local control for needle and syringe exchange programs.

Such programs do not condone drug abuse but recognize the reality that some people are going to inject themselves with harmful substances. Almost inevitably, these people are poor. They “only had a dollar to live on till next Monday,” to quote the old Hoyt Axton anti-drug song, “Snowblind Friend.”

Experts will tell you people are tempted to use old needles that may be contaminated with HIV, hepatitis or other diseases, perpetuating the contagion. Which is why needle-exchange programs hand them new, sterile needles. This idea, while well-intentioned, presents a whole new set of challenges.

When addicts receive the needles, they also make contact with the public health system, possibly for the first time. Doing so gives them the opportunity to receive information on health, recovery and other programs that can help them break the addiction, or at least to live another day.

Crucial to such programs is local control. That’s because local city councils, police and health officials are the ones on the ground trying to help the addicts. Also important to consider is increased risk to public safety.

The California Department of Public Health, Office of AIDS, has cautioned that some existing needle-exchange programs have not made matters better, but worse through threatening non-drug-using residents. These concerns are real.

The Register reported last November when Orange County’s only needle-exchange program was shut down, Superior Court Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil “agreed with concerns raised by Orange County officials and the cities of Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Orange about the potential for used syringes to litter the community and stick people.”

The judge called the program a “noble goal” and lauded volunteers’ “selfish devotion.” Then he cited “the estimated 250,000 syringes that were unaccounted for during Civic Center operations,” according to the Register.

“The seriousness of the harm outweighs the social utility,” Wohlfeil ruled.

Discarded needles have pricked city employees. Heather Folmar, operations manager at the nearby Santa Ana Public Library, said needles rarely were found in the library before the exchange opened, but 40 to 50 a month afterward. “We found them on shelves, near planters, window sills, in books,” she said. “A cleaning lady was pricked by one.”

Helping some people shouldn’t hurt other people.

SB 689 specifically states its intent is to “reduce the spread of HIV infection and bloodborne hepatitis among the intravenous drug user population within California.” Therefore, “the Legislature hereby authorizes a clean needle and syringe exchange project.”

It allows the California Department of Public Health to authorize needle-exchange programs only if the city or county in which the exchange will be “operating has adopted an ordinance or resolution approving that authorization or reauthorization.”

The bill provides a crucial element to make needle exchanges work: local control.

Please join me March 1 at 10 a.m. as I introduce SB 689 to the public.

Address: City Hall, 300 E Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92866.

John M. W. Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, represents the 37th District in the California Senate

A piecemeal, but promising

start for Laura’s Law to help

severely mentally ill in


Beating death of schizophrenic Kelly Thomas in Fullerton sparked wider use of law compelling treatment statewide


Lauren Rettagliata’s son was homeless for years, refusing to take medication for schizophrenia, rejecting the very notion that anything was amiss.

Fawn Kennedy Dessy’s daughter was hospitalized more than 100 times on so-called 5150 holds, meaning she was a danger to herself or others due to severe mental illness.

Mark Gale’s son had a temporary conservatorship and 10 hospitalizations before doctors finally found medication that could stabilize his frenetic mind.

It’s a parent’s worst torment, not being able to help a struggling child because he’s legally an adult and can make his own decisions — even if he’s profoundly mentally ill and those decisions can be dangerous.

“That’s a fear as a parent you have,” Rettagliata said. “That they could harm someone else, as well as harming themselves.”

Rettagliata, Kennedy Dessy and Gale are among a fierce army of California parents who have beseeched their counties to adopt Laura’s Law — requiring treatment for the most seriously mentally ill — and who help guide its ever-evolving, uneven rollout.

A county-by-county analysis of Laura’s Law in California found that the Golden State is off to a promising start, with much-improved outcomes for people with severe mental illness. But only 20 of California’s 58 counties have adopted it, and the state’s version differs greatly from what works elsewhere, leaving some powerful tools on the table, according to the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center.

“The current partial implementation of Laura’s Law continues to under-serve — and in some cases fail outright — the population it was created to help,” said the report from the center, which was a strong proponent of the law.

More than 1 million people in California suffer with dire mental illness, and as many as half are untreated on any given day, cycling between homeless shelters and emergency rooms, tent encampments and jails, the report said.

What does Laura’s Law do?

Laura’s Law compels county mental health workers to persuade the severely ill to voluntarily accept treatment. It also empowers courts to order recalcitrant people into outpatient treatment, even if it’s against their wishes.

Civil libertarians vehemently oppose Laura’s Law, saying forced treatment has a long and abusive history and the decision to enter or refuse treatment should always rest with the individual, not the state.

The law is named in honor of Laura Wilcox, who was working at a public mental health clinic in Nevada County during winter break in 2001. A man who had refused psychiatric treatment stormed the clinic, killing Wilcox and two others. She was 19.

The Legislature approved Laura’s Law in 2003, but, rather than requiring it statewide, let each individual county decide to embrace it or not.

Los Angeles County started a small pilot program soon after passage, but for years, Nevada was the only county to fully implement the law. After the beating death of homeless schizophrenic Kelly Thomas by Fullerton police in 2011, Orange became California’s first large county to fully adopt Laura’s Law three years later.

Riverside and San Bernardino are among the largest that still do not have Laura’s Law on the books.

Reluctance to adopt the law was largely due to its cost — estimated to be some $40,000 a year per client. The Legislature didn’t approve specific funding for Laura’s Law, and counties felt they just couldn’t afford it.

After Kelly’s death, then-Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach — a fiscal conservative who found himself playing against type to get Laura’s Law adopted — worked with Democratic state Sen. Darrell Steinberg to pass a bill explicitly allowing counties to use “millionaires’ tax” dollars to fund Laura’s Law programs.

That tax — enacted through Proposition 63, approved in 2004 — hits personal income in excess of $1 million, specifically to fund mental health programs. It’s expected to generate more than $2.2 billion this fiscal year.

Counties have found that, despite its costs, Laura’s Law saves millions on jail and psychiatric hospitalization costs each year. The state, however, does not track costs or savings.

Law yields progress

In the 10 counties providing outcome data, the Treatment Advocacy Center found that the most seriously ill had fewer psychiatric hospitalizations, crisis contacts, incarcerations and homelessness.

It’s hard to pinpoint how many people have been treated because of uneven data collection and late reporting. But at least 3,400 have received services via Laura’s Law through 2017, counties reported.

Los Angeles and Orange are among the most experienced with the law, and are making good progress, the nonprofit said.

Los Angeles had enrolled 1,242 people through October 2017 — or 1.3 people per 100,000 residents. They logged a 30 percent reduction in the use of emergency services, a 17 percent drop in psychiatric hospitalizations, and a 13 percent reduction in use of law enforcement services, according to the data.

Orange County — praised for the thoroughness of its record-keeping — had 692 people in the program in 2017, or 1.7 people per 100,000 residents. It logged a 34 percent reduction in incarcerations, a 48 percent decrease in hospitalization episodes and a 75 percent reduction in number of days spent homeless.

Counties collecting data on “co-occurring disorders” showed that most patients — up to 80 percent — also had substance use problems. Yet many counties with the highest drug overdose death rates in California do not yet have Laura’s Law on the books.

Court oversight needed?

There’s a significant lack of standardization in how Laura’s Law works from county to county, the nonprofit found.

Some appeared reluctant to use Laura’s Law, with a low of 0.5 enrollments per 100,000 people in El Dorado, and a high of 11 enrollments per 100,000 people in sparsely populated Nevada — Laura Wilcox’s home, with what’s considered the gold standard program.

And while courts play a starring role in other states — with the “black robe effect” credited for prodding recalcitrant people into treatment and nudging the system into providing more comprehensive services — the court’s role is markedly diminished in California.

Four counties, for example, had no one enrolled in Laura’s Law programs with court oversight, the study found.

It’s the combination of court supervision and robust services that most effectively reverses “the tragic downward spiral too often experienced by individuals with severe mental illness,” the nonprofit said.

So to make full use of Laura’s Law, California should make court oversight a fundamental part of the process, not just an avenue of last resort, the nonprofit said.

The law should be implemented in every county, and all counties should increase enrollment and shorten outreach and engagement times to ensure more timely treatment.

Counties also should include psychiatric medication in settlement agreements and court orders when that medication is called for in treatment plans — which some counties are reluctant to do for fear of being perceived as forcing medication.

“I have my fingers into multiple states, and California is by far the worst,” said DJ Jaffe, executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org and author of “Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill.”

“Laura’s Law is on the books, it works, but it is rarely used,” Jaffe said. “That is because the county mental health directors shun the most seriously ill. They send the highest functioning to the head of the line, and the seriously ill to jails, shelters, prisons and morgues. Laura’s Law could fix the mental-illness-to-jail-and-homelessness pipeline, but only if it is used.”

‘Saving a lot of lives’

Folks are learning that passing Laura’s Law is not the end of the journey, but the beginning.

After finally convincing Kern to come on board in 2015, Kennedy Dessy requested intervention for her daughter, who has a psychotic disorder and was hospitalized scores of times. She got no help from the new Laura’s Law team, she said.

So Kennedy Dessy and her colleagues at the Mental Health Collaborative of Kern County kept pushing. The program has been revamped, relaunched, and has finally referred one person for court intervention. She’s hopeful more people will now get help.

In Los Angeles, Gale sits on the county’s Laura’s Law oversight committee, and is criminal justice chair for the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He doesn’t see California’s light use of court intervention as a negative.

“I’ve been proud of the fact we haven’t had to do compulsory court orders,” Gale said. “Look at how many people we’re helping without doing that. We’re saving a lot of lives.”

The “secret sauce,” Gale said, is that the program remains voluntary for the ill — but not for mental health workers. Before, workers could walk away from recalcitrant people and move on to those who are more amenable to treatment. But Laura’s Law requires them to engage, repeatedly, over a period of months, with the most severely ill.

“It binds the mental health system to the client. That’s one of the reasons it works,” Gale said.

Rettagliata has served on Contra Costa’s Mental Health Commission. Her son has lived in Orange and Contra Costa counties, and Laura’s Law has brought him into court to face a judge.

She’s a believer in the court’s power here — “Sometimes it takes a third party who can listen and say, ‘Maybe they’re back on street homeless again because you’re not providing adequate housing’ ” — but her son felt intimidated by the process. It should be gentler, perhaps one on one, she said.

She agrees that the law is greatly underutilized. Those in regular contact with the mentally ill — shelter staff, law enforcement and the like — are often unaware that they can recommend people to Laura’s Law teams directly, she said.

For his part, former Orange County Supervisor Moorlach — now a state senator — was heartened to hear that the nonprofit concluded Laura’s Law is off to a promising start, and stands ready to push legislation to make it better.

He and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon co-authored the bill that led to November’s Proposition 2, taps “millionaires’ tax” revenue for supportive housing for the mentally ill homeless. Another, with Sen. Scott Wiener, allows funds to be used for early intervention for young people with mental illness.

“Who would have thought that the death of Kelly Thomas would start this snowball rolling?” he said.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — First American Autobahn? — February 27, 2019

The introduction of SB 319, High Speed Roads, has generated numerous requests for television and radio interviews. On the whole, almost every radio talk show host, from conservative to left of center, has been supportive of the concept. Many confessing that they feel comfortable about driving 80 miles per hour and sharing their frustrations about having to wait for one truck to pass another when there are only two lanes. So, I’ve been amazed at how well the interviews up and down the state have gone.

Because there have been so many media mentions on SB 319, probably because most of us drive and it is a big source of discussion in the Central Valley, I have not included all of them in my UPDATEs. But, I’m still getting media calls, email suggestions, and comments when I am walking around the Capitol. So, I’m providing you with a rather thorough piece below from the appropriately named Top Speed.

The piece covers all of the important concerns as it relates to the Autobahn component. I’ve been working on this bill for some time. When Germany recently announced that it was considering speed limit reductions to meet their greenhouse gas goals, I decided to move forward on the bill all the same as there are two significant components.

The major thrust of the bill is to build more lanes. If encouraging the economy of the Central Valley is important to our Governor, then provide more lanes on these major thoroughfares. The trucks frustrate drivers, causing them to drive faster, which may explain the concerns about safety, especially for the 99. I believe the road rage would decrease with the provision of two more lanes. And, consequently, the accident rates would also decline.

The second component is the ability to enjoy the freedom from a speed limit cap. This has certainly captivated the imaginations of many. Remember, it will take a few years to build the lanes, so there is time to address many of the suggestions and concerns that I have received.

Truck drivers have been very communicative with my office. Removing agitated drivers that weave in and out of lanes would be a big bonus to them. They want to move goods up and down this state in a safe and timely manner. Added lanes will improve their delivery times, as time is money for everyone on our roads.

We have to remind interviewers that the lanes would be segregated and optional. Those uncomfortable with higher levels of speed would remain on the existing lanes. Those who are already comfortable with a higher speed, like 90 mph, would be happy to take the new lanes. But, lack of proper driver etiquette is becoming very apparent in my discussions.

With no maximum speed, the lanes will not require as much patrolling by the California Highway Patrol, though they will still patrol the other lanes and could be available should there be a need. Further, these lane could provide an ability for emergency vehicles to traverse longer distances easier and with less traffic where minutes could mean life or death for those they are assisting. . Like the 91 Express Lanes, they should have cameras with staffing at various control centers watching for drunk driving, erratic or unsafe maneuvering, and accidents. Tow trucks and ambulances, if required, could be sent immediately. And digital signs could inform drivers that reduced speeds are required ahead. This could also be done should there be Tule Fog or high wind conditions. Night driving may be assisted with proper overhead lighting.

Autonomous vehicles, interconnected with other self-driving cars by computer, can actually drive a few feet apart from each other in a tight convoy. The lead car would address the air resistance and the others would draft along. This would be the technological train of the future, thus making high speed rail obsolete. If zero emission vehicles use the lanes, then we have a bonus. But, providing separate lanes for this new technology is the key. And it may be our future.

The piece below covers many of the other subtopics that have surfaced with the introduction of the bill. The discussions have been very stimulating ((also see MOORLACH UPDATE — High Speed Road Idea — February 20, 2019 and MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 High Speed Road — February 19, 2019).


It happens at a time when the German Autobahn could could face speed restrictions everywhere

by Michael Fira

If we are to believe some recent developments coming from Germany, the days of the no-limit sections of the famed Autobahn highway system might be numbered. However, there is an initiative for a new way to reduce emissions in California: by adding extra lanes with no speed limit imposed on two major strips of highway. We’re intrigued!

You’ll have a field day on the internet if you start searching for video of people going amok on Germany’s Autobahn. That’s because Germany’s Autobahns, while no more the Nirvana of fast driving they once were, still offer many strips of highway devoid of speed limits where each and every one of us can go and test the limits of our rides. Those with faster cars are usually inclined to film their top speed attempts on the public roads, and that’s how you get thousands of videos of fast Porsches, Ferraris, BMWs and anything in between blitzing towards the German horizon at ludicrous velocity – while still staying away from the effects of the law.

In the near future, we might see similar videos emerge from motorists in California if Senate Bill 319 passes. Why? Well, here’s what the bill’s text says: It “requires the department to initiate a project to construct two additional traffic lanes on northbound and southbound Interstate Route 5 and State Route 99, and would prohibit the imposition of a maximum speed limit for those traffic lanes.” Let’s dig in further.

Currently, on most of California’s highways, the speed limit is 65 mph.

In some places, it’s 70 mph, but that’s as fast as you can go in The Golden State and, by and large, that’s the norm across the U.S. although you’ll find slightly higher speed limits in the island states. This could radically change in the future, at least in California, if a new bill proposed by Senator John Moorlach passes.

The bill is Moorlach’s answer to the overcrowded Californian highways and comes as a way to reduce bumper-to-bumper situations and, overall, fluidify congestion. It’s also an answer to the slow-moving bullet train system that was supposed to take people off the roads and put them in high-speed trains that would shorten their commutes. Jalopnik quoted the Sacramento Bee that reported from Governor Gavin Newsom’s address at the State of the State address last week. There, he said that “the state’s high-speed rail project, which has ballooned in price from $45 billion to $77 billion, is out of control and needs trimming.” Apparently, plans to connect the Bay Area have been ditched for the time being and the Governor is now focusing on the line through Silicon Valley from Merced to Bakersfield that would stretch 171 miles when finished, in 2027.

So, with at least seven years separating Californians from the high-tech rail system, Moorlach wants the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to back the introduction of two, separate, lanes on northbound and southbound Interstate Route 5 and State Route 99. According to the bill’s text, “existing law continuously appropriates 35% of the annual proceeds of the fund for transit, affordable housing, and sustainable communities programs and 25% of the annual proceeds of the fund for certain components of a specified high-speed rail project.”

This project would fit as one appropriate to be supported by the fund as it aims to reduce the time people spend idling which, in turn, reduces greenhouse gases.

“If Sacramento is serious about allowing Californians to travel between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and High-Speed Rail will take too long to build, let’s construct four additional lanes with no maximum speed limit to provide for high speed on a safe road,” stated Senator Moorlach in a press release. He also points out on his blog that the current law, which states that “a person who drives a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than 100 miles per hour is guilty of an infraction” would exclude the high-speed lanes from the area of application of
this rule.

Naturally, I’m asking myself if this can actually be done in a safe way and, also, if it’s actually a genuine avenue to reduce both congestion and pollution.

As of 2017, the fatality rate stood at 11.4% per 100,000 people.

That’s almost three times the fatality rate in Germany which, some three years ago, was at 4.3% per 100,000 people. There’s, however, change on the horizon in Germany as well.

The National Platform on the Future of Mobility is, according to MNN, preparing to put forth a bill that would introduce speed limits across Germany’s entire highway system. Currently, there are speed limits in certain areas according to the amount of traffic in the said areas, and there are also limits imposed at different hours of the day.

With this being said, there are still multiple strips of the Autobahn that remain unrestricted, and that means you can go as fast as you can, although the density of trucks and semis makes it tough to blast through the country like you once could. Officially, “just over half of the Autobahn network has a non-enforced advisory speed limit of 81 mph”. The longest unrestricted stretch of highway is the A24 that links Berlin to Hamburg, and 65% of those 147 miles can be traveled at a speed as high as you dare or as high as the car can go.

The idea of speed limits on all of Germany’s highways comes at a time when Europe is struggling to meet the tough emission reduction targets established by the Paris accord, of which the U.S. is no longer a part. Still, it’s interesting to see how Stateside, there’s a bill that suggests greenhouse emissions would be reduced by a lack of speed limit while in the land of unbridled speed, there are people looking into ways to reduce pollution by doing the opposite thing. Indeed, even Germany’s Minister of Transport, Andreas Scheuer, argued that such an idea “goes against all common sense.”

The proposed cover-all speed limit is 81 mph, the current suggested speed limit, that’s still 16 mph above the maximum speed on California’s highways including the two stretches of road that should see the implementation of the no-speed-limit lanes.

According to the Deutsche Welle, the commission that gathers to discuss this bill was unhappy that details of what it called an ’early draft’ were leaked to the media and it wanted to point out that “not every instrument and every measure will be accepted. It will take political deftness, diplomatic skill and a willingness to compromise to achieve the climate change goals.”

According to Deutsche Welle, vehicles roaming Germany’s roads let out 115 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2017, 6.5% up from 2010. If that seems like a lot to you, The Guardian was reporting two years ago that, in 2016, vehicles in the U.S. produced a whopping 1.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide, up by 2% compared to 2015. The same article quotes Brett Smith, Assistant Director of the Center for Automotive Research: “In the automotive sector, there isn’t the same push. There are certainly Americans concerned about global warming, but people are driving bigger and bigger vehicles each year. It’s not a priority for them. The cost of fuel is pretty cheap, and at the moment there isn’t a better option out there than the internal combustion engine.”

The situation is similar in Germany, although at a smaller scale, as per a World Crunch article: “German carmakers earn most of their money with large, heavy, powerful cars,” the author says while also adding that “for companies, speeding on the highways is invaluable publicity, admired all over the world.” Also, while it seems to be true that a larger percentage of people die on the stretches of highway that have o speed limits, according to a 10-year-old report by the European Transport Safety Council that found that out “of the 645 road deaths in Germany in 2006, 67% occurred on motorway sections without limits and 33% on stretches with a permanent limit.” Still, more people die on rural B roads than on the big highways.

At the end of the day, the topic is a tough one to swallow for the Germans as 50% of them are still against a blanket speed limit on the Autobahn according to The Independent. The British news outlet, however, also quotes Dorothee Saar, of Deutsche Umwelthilfe, who said that this measure is “the most impactful” while also costing nothing. “An autobahn speed limit of 75 mph, could cover a fifth of the gap to reach the 2020 goals for the transport sector, environmental experts say,” reported the same source.

This opinion is echoed by the European Environmental Agency (EEA)which said that “cutting motorway speed limits from 75 to 68 mph could deliver fuel savings for current technology passenger cars of 12-18%, assuming smooth driving and 100 % compliance with speed limits. However, relaxing these assumptions to a more realistic setting implies a saving of just 2-3%.” The same Agency also states that “the benefits of reducing average speed from 62 mph to 56 mph range from 25% (gas carbon dioxide) to 5% (diesel PM). Crucially, decreasing speed reduces the two pollutants currently most important in Europe: diesel NOx and PM.” The German Federal Environment Agency, through the voice of its President, Andreas Troge, shares similar sentiments as he said that by enforcing a nation-wide 75 mph speed limit on the Autobahn, emissions could drop by upwards of 30%.

What’s clear is that the Germans like as much of their Autobahns sans speed limit as possible and, also, American car nuts would go berserk over a no-speed-limit highway system.

But there’s still a long way until we have definite proof that it actually is an alternative to the high-speed rail system and not just a knee-jerk decision that won’t help in either the matters of pollution or traffic. Until then, it’d be better if Americans looked at the way Germans maintain the quality of their highways, the way the Germans are keen and attentive drivers that follow traffic rules, don’t block the left lanes, and don’t tailgate, among others. Also, getting your license in Germany is no easy feat to pull either.

This is a fact acknowledged by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that responded to an inquiry made by Jalopnik saying that “there are important differences besides speed that make driving in the U.S. more hazardous than in Germany. A big difference is that traffic safety laws are often more strictly enforced in Europe. Belt use is higher, the minimum licensing age is higher, where speed limits are in place, automated enforcement is used widely, and with extensive networks of public transit and drinking and driving is less of a problem.” The same organization said that the bill is “dangerous to the extreme.”

It’s clear that decision-makers have to find ways to reduce both pollution and congestion but, maybe, higher speeds – or no speed limit at all – may not be the answer in the U.S. Maybe, tougher driving tests can be the answer and better policing of the rules and laws of driving could end up lessen the effects of congestion more as drivers become more aware of what they’re supposed to do behind the wheel to not only keep themselves out of harm’s way but also drive in such a way as not to be the cause of bumper-to-bumper idle driving themselves.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — High Gas Prices — February 25, 2019

For the second time this month, an editorial submission has criticized the Democrats for killing my Transparency In Fuel Taxes bill, SB 1074, from last year (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Discussion — February 4, 2019).

My simple request was to require the provision for the full disclosure, at your gasoline pump, of the components making up the full cost of a gallon of gas. Who could be opposed to this? For other purchases, one already is provided with the amount of sales tax. Why not the various gas taxes and fees when refueling?

California State Senator Brian Jones (R – Santee), provides his frustration on how many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have co-written a request to the Attorney General about the price of gas, as if something nefarious was going on. It looks like a classic case of deflection. The La Mesa Courier provides his thoughts in the piece below.

Don’t investigate mystery charge, investigate gas taxes instead

By Sen. Brian Jones

I’ll keep this simple: Why are California’s gas prices almost a dollar more than almost anywhere else in the country? Because of all the laws, regulations and taxes that the Democratic majority have added onto the price of fuel.

Recently, 19 Democrat legislators sent a letter to the California Attorney General requesting an investigation into a “mystery” charge they feel is unfairly inflating the state’s gas prices. Instead of taking responsibility for their price-increasing policies, the Democrat legislators want to blame “Big Oil.” They claim that the oil companies are adding a secret surcharge between the refinery and the pump to gouge consumers.

This is not the first time the issue has come up. When Democrat legislators created or have sought to expand the state’s pricey Cap-and-Trade Program, they loudly complain that “Big Oil” is conspiring to hike gas prices. When they say “Big Oil,” they are talking about the large multinationals, but in California, we have many small businesses in the oil industry that create high-paying jobs all over the state, particularly in the Central Valley.

In fact, last year, my Republican colleague Senator John Moorlach of Costa Mesa sponsored a bill to increase transparency on gas prices by disclosing all government-imposed costs (e.g., taxes and fees). Senate Bill 1074 would have required gas stations to post near each gas and diesel pump a list of cost factors adding to the price of fuel. The list would have disclosed how much the consumer pays in federal, state and local taxes, as well as the costs associated with environmental rules and regulations.

Some of the costs hidden in the posted per-gallon price of fuel at the pump that SB 1074 would have revealed to the consumer:

  • Federal tax.
  • Excise tax.
  • State tax.
  • Local sales tax.
  • Cap-and-Trade Program compliance costs.
  • Low-carbon fuel standard program compliance costs.
  • Renewable fuels standard program compliance costs.
  • Refinery winter and summer reformatting costs.
  • Underground storage tank fee.

The legislation went nowhere. In fact, the Democrat-controlled Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development, where Moorlach’s bill had its one and only hearing, made amply clear that it didn’t want the public to be aware of the real costs of all the programs and taxes they have imposed.

All told, the aforementioned taxes, compliance fees, and costs add just under one dollar to the per-gallon cost at the pump. Plus, as Cap-and-Trade and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard programs kick into higher gear in the coming years, the cost to fill the tank is projected to jump another one to two dollars per gallon by 2030, according to an analysis done by Stillwater Associates’s carbon policy team in 2018.

Make no mistake, California’s high fuel prices are not due to some nefarious “price gouging” actions taken by “Big Oil,” but are the result of the laws and policies that Democrat legislators have supported and continue to support. I question why those same legislators are only saying they can’t understand why the price of gas is so high, and why they don’t want consumers to know exactly what they’re paying for at the pump.

Similar to hiding gas-pump costs, hiding from the public the details of a multitude of other government-imposed costs provides a better understanding of why California is grappling with the highest percentage of people in poverty and a homelessness crisis so acute as to defy explanation.

California has 25 percent of the homeless in the nation, and double the national average of homeless per 10,000 people.

According to the California Poverty Measure, almost 40 percent of Californians are living in or near poverty.

The Democrat legislators talk a good game, then hide from the facts. The “transparency-at-the-pump” bill would have given drivers knowledge on just how much all the various taxes and programs imposed on fuel are really costing Californians.

Democrat legislators don’t want Californians to know how much they have to pay in taxes because they know Californians would rise up in anger. Californians deserve better. I welcome your thoughts on the rise of gas taxes. Email me at senator.jones.

— Sen. Brian W. Jones is chair of the Senate Republican Caucus and was elected to the California state Senate in 2018 representing the 38th Senate District which includes Lemon Grove, El Cajon, La Mesa, Santee, Poway, Escondido, San Marcos, Lakeside, Valley Center, Rancho Santa Fe, Julian, Ramona, Rancho San Diego, Bonsall, Fallbrook, Borrego Springs, and parts of the city of San Diego.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Sanctuary State Clarifications — February 23, 2019

Although my Autobahn bill has captured national attention this past week, other things are also going on in Sacramento.

As the new Vice Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, I was asked to join the Senate Republican Leader in asking the state’s Attorney General about clarification in certain areas concerning SB 54, the Sanctuary State bill (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Sanctuary State — February 2, 2017  and MOORLACH UPDATE — Sanctuary Repercussions — April 4, 2017). The Modesto Bee and The Sierra Sun Times provide the details in the first two pieces below, respectively.

Speaking of public safety concerns, the Voice of OC came by my Capitol Office recently and I enjoyed a thirty minute podcast interview with the publisher, Norberto Santana, Jr. It is the third piece below and you’ll have to click on the link to listen to the results.

State Senate Republicans ask for review of ‘sanctuary’ laws in Newman cop killing


State Senate Republicans are asking the Attorney General’s Office to determine whether local and state law enforcement agencies were prevented by California’s so-called “sanctuary state” laws from communicating with federal immigration officials in regards to the fatal shooting of Newman Police Corporal Ronil Singh.

Paulo Virgen Mendoza has been charged with murder in connection with Singh’s death. Mendoza is accused of shooting Singh during a Dec. 26 traffic stop in Newman when Mendoza allegedly was driving drunk. Mendoza is still identified in Stanislaus County jail records as Gustavo Perez Arriaga, an alias. But he’s referred to in court by his given name.

Mendoza entered the country illegally, according to authorities.

Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel; Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama, and Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, delivered a letter to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra last week, requesting his office to review the matter, according to a news release issued Thursday.

California Senate Republicans Request California Attorney General to Review “Sanctuary State” Law

Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel); Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama), Vice Chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review california senate republicans

Committee; and Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), Vice Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, delivered a letter to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra last week requesting that he determine whether or not local and state law enforcement agencies were prohibited from communicating with federal immigration officers regarding the shooting of Newman Police Officer Ronil Singh because of Senate Bill 54 (2017) and how to uniformly enforce the law.

On December 26th, Officer Singh was killed in the line of duty after an early morning traffic stop. Two days after the shooting, Gustavo Perez Arriaga, a suspected criminal street gang member and an undocumented immigrant, was arrested and charged with his death. The law enforcement agency that arrested the suspected cop killer asserted that SB 54 prevented law enforcement agencies from sharing information about criminals like Arriaga to federal authorities.

The letter includes several statements made by former Governor Jerry Brown and Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León who appear to believe state or local law enforcement agencies could have shared information with ICE about Officer Singh’s alleged killer. As the state’s chief legal officer charged with ensuring laws of the state are uniformly enforced, California Senate Republicans respectfully request that Attorney General Becerra provide answers to the following questions:

  • Are state and local law enforcement agencies permitted under SB 54 to notify ICE and detain an undocumented person who has been convicted of DUI?
  • Are state and local law enforcement agencies permitted under SB 54 to report an undocumented immigrant to federal agencies, including ICE, if warrants have been issued for that individual for failure to appear in a DUI arraignment?
  • May state and local law enforcement agencies notify federal agencies about an illegal immigrant who publicly claims to be a member of a criminal street gang known to law enforcement?
  • Even if permitted under state law, can city or county laws prohibit law enforcement agencies from providing ICE with information about an individual’s immigration status when the illegal immigrant has outstanding warrants or a criminal conviction?
  • May a state or local law enforcement agency that is engaged in a multi-agency gang task force inform a participating federal agency about the immigration status of a gang member identified through task force operations?
  • May state and local law enforcement agencies report to federal agencies, including ICE, any undocumented person who harbors or aids another undocumented person evade arrest or escape to a different jurisdiction, as occurred in Arriaga’s flight from the crime scene?

Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) represents the 36th Senate District in the California Legislature, which covers South Orange County, North San Diego County, and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Elected to the State Senate in January 2013, Senator Nielsen represents the Fourth Senate District, which includes the counties of Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Tehama and Yuba. To contact Senator Jim Nielsen, please call him at 916-651-4004, or via email at senator.nielsen. Follow him @CASenatorJim.

State Senator John Moorlach represents the 37th district of California, is a trained Certified Financial Planner and is the only trained CPA in the California Senate. He gained national attention 23 years ago when he was appointed Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector and helped the County recover from its bankruptcy filing – at the time the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

Source: California Senate Republicans

On OC: State Sen. John Moorlach on Police Oversight, Pensions & California’s Fiscal Solvency

By Norberto Santana Jr.NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

At his state office in Sacramento, Moorlach talks about recent legal cases spurring from legislation he co-sponsored, SB 1421, that calls on police misconduct records to be opened for public review. The former County Supervisor and Treasurer-Tax Collector for OC also ponders the future of pensions and California’s budget.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Fast Track for Charter Schools — February 22, 2019

After reviewing 944 school district Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports and finding the per capita for the unrestricted net position, you start to feel a pulse for the finances. That’s what marinating in a topic will do. Blaming school district ills on charter schools is a gross misdiagnosis. It’s like telling those who found a way out of the quagmire to seal the exit they’ve discovered. The Legislature needs to do a complete reevaluation of the state’s educational system (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Oakland Unified School District — February 21, 2019).

Although I affirm transparency and that all parties should enjoy a “no better, no worse” status, targeting a reasonable solution makes me nervous, so I laid off and did not vote on SB 126. Note: It has been vetoed in past years, as when Gov. Brown vetoed AB 709 in 2016. One of this year’s first bills is covered in the Ed Source piece, which is the first below.

This has been “Autobahn” week. It’s gone national, with former LA Times reporter Chris Woodyard publishing another perspective in USA Today, which is the second piece below. Some things are counterintuitive. No speed limits and no patrolling for offenders changes the psychological dynamics of the driving exercise. At least the debate has started (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — High Speed Road Idea — February 20, 2019 and MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 High Speed Road — February 19, 2019)

Fourtitude, a blog for Audi enthusiasts, provides a sample of another fun editorial on the no speed limit discussion in the third piece below.

California charter schools facing new oversight under fast track legislation

Assembly vote could come as early as next week. If it passes, Newsom expected to sign it.

Diana Lambert

At the urging of Gov. Gavin Newsom, a bill that will require charter schools to be more accountable and transparent is making its way swiftly through the legislature and may be the first of several bills seeking to tighten oversight of charter schools.

Senate Bill 126 would require that California charter school boards comply with the same open meeting, conflict-of-interest and disclosure laws as district school boards, including holding public board meetings, opening records to the public upon request and ensuring board members don’t have a financial interest in contracts on which they vote.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino and Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach. It passed the state Senate Thursday with a 34 to 2 vote and will go to the state Assembly for a vote as early as next week. If it passes, the law will go into effect Jan. 1.

The bill met no opposition from the California State Charter Schools Association, although it did not formally support it.

Leyva said she was able to get Senate Bill 126 through with little resistance because all parties, including representatives of the charter school association and teacher unions, were at the negotiating table hammering out the details.

Not everyone was happy with everything in the bill, but everyone felt they had input, she said.

Supporters say Senate Bill 126 is needed because charter schools, while publicly funded, are not required to follow the same rules for transparency and accountability that govern other publicly funded schools, Leyva said before the vote.

“SB 126 directly responds to Governor Gavin Newsom’s call for swift action to resolve ongoing charter school transparency issues,” Leyva said.

There has long been debate over whether charter school board members are subject to the same open meeting and conflict-of-interest laws as school district boards, she said. The California Attorney General’s office recently weighed in on the discussion with an advisory opinion that charter schools are subject to the same good government laws as school districts.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation three times because of concern that those bills went too far in prescribing how the boards must operate.

“It’s about transparency and accountability,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, before Thursday’s vote. “Charter schools receive quite a few taxpayer dollars. There needs to be sunshine in all public schools and their governing bodies and this is what this bill stands for.”

Many charters already abide by open meeting and public records laws, either voluntarily or because of agreements with the entities that granted their charter, said Carlos Marquez, senior vice president of governmental affairs for the California Charter Schools Association.

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, who abstained from the vote, expressed concern Thursday that charter schools are becoming the “fall guy” for the financial woes of school districts. “I think you have to look past a lot of other culprits like pensions,” he said, referring to the high costs districts face to fund teacher and administrator pensions.

Parents select charter schools because there aren’t enough great public schools, Moorlach said.

“Tightening the screws on charter schools may be a misdirected solution,” he said. “… SB 126 is a Band-aid when major surgery is needed.”

The drumbeat to increase oversight of charter schools has grown louder since last year when increased charter accountability became an issue in the governor’s race and a temporary moratorium on charter schools was debated during the California state superintendent of public instruction contest. It grew louder more recently, as teachers in two major California cities — Los Angeles and Oakland — went on strike demanding higher pay and more state resources for classrooms.

California has the most charter schools in the country — 1,323 schools enrolling 660,000 students, according to the California Charter School Association. Seventy new charter schools opened in the 2018-19 school year. Twenty-five of those were in the greater Los Angeles area and 17 were in the Bay Area. Fifty-three charter schools closed or returned to a traditional school in the 2017-18 school year.

Teachers unions say that charter schools sap resources from school districts, who get paid by the state based on the number of students in their seats each day. In Los Angeles and Oakland striking teachers have demanded that their school boards curb charter growth.

The new contract with teachers in Los Angeles Unified that ended the strike in January included an agreement to ask the Legislature and Gov. Newsom to impose an eight to 10-month moratorium on charter schools in the district while the state studies the financial impact and other effects of charter schools. Oakland Unified’s school board and teachers have made a similar request.

In response, earlier this month, Newsom called on State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to establish a panel to research the impact of charter school growth on district finances. The panel, which is still being formed, will report back to Newsom on July 1.

This is the first time there has been an in-depth look at the financial impact of charter schools since the passage of California’s first charter law in 1992. The law prohibits school boards from taking the financial impact of a charter school on their district into account when deciding whether to grant or reauthorize a charter.

Los Angeles has 227 charter schools with 110,000 students — about one-sixth of its student population – and Oakland has 44 charter schools with 50,000 students — about half the district’s students.

Marquez said he hoped that Senate Bill 126 would encourage more collaboration between school districts and charter schools.

“Hopefully, we will take this cudgel off the table for our opponents, to perhaps de-escalate some of the rhetoric around charter schools being for-profit centers and our board members looking to get into the work of public education to line their pockets,” he said. “We couldn’t disagree with those assertions more vehemently. So, hopefully settling this area in law will put those falsehoods to bed.”

Seth Bramble, legislative advocate for the California Teachers Association, the teachers’ union, said charter schools were established to encourage innovation and to share best practices. “But the people cannot learn from this innovation if the people’s business is being conducted in private,” he said.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, said there are other charter school accountability and financial oversight proposals being considered.

“One thing I’m exploring is a notion of a cap for new charter schools in California that will allow some capacity for charter schools to expand when low-performing schools are phased out or shut down,” McCarty said. “This will give some stability to some school districts in California related to declining enrollments.”

Some districts have so many charter schools that it is unsustainable for them financially, he said.

“It isn’t an aversion to charter schools as a whole, but their financial impact on the fiscal well-being of school districts across California and year-after-year growth in (charter) school population,” McCarty said.

Senate Bill 126 is moving quickly. It was introduced on Jan. 10, passed the Senate Education Committee Feb. 19 at its first meeting of the year and was approved on the Senate floor two days later.

“I think this is a great way to start off the year,” Leyva said.

Is the American Autobahn next? How states are pushing highway speeds past the limit

Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY

After years of seeing posted highway speeds creep up around the country, perhaps it’s no surprise that a California legislator would propose the ultimate in motoring freedom: No limits at all.

State Sen. John Moorlach’s vision for a Golden State version of Germany’s famed Autobahn — a stretch of pavement where you can drive as fast you want — is just the latest in a series of moves by states to put the pedal to the metal when it comes to speed limits.

It’s happening even as safety experts try to throw on the brakes on speeds that have now reached legal levels they view as somewhere between risky and downright dangerous.

“We have routinely seen studies that show when states raise speed limits, they can expect higher deaths,” said Maureen Vogel, spokeswoman for the National Safety Council.

Seven states — Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming — have allowed 80 mph speed limits on select highways. One, Texas, has 85 mph on a section of State Highway 130. Legislatures have upped limits as cars have become safer and more powerful and the price of gas has tumbled, lowering concerns about the poor fuel mileage that high-speed driving can bring.

Yet, the resulting higher speeds haven’t made much of a statistical dent in highway deaths, the Governors Highway Safety Association reports.

In 2017, there were 9,717 speed-related deaths from among 37,133 total road fatalities. Those speed-related deaths were down 574 from 2016, were about the same as in 2015 and up 434 from 2014.

In California, Moorlach doesn’t think safety will be a showstopper when it comes to his no-speed-limit plan. He said crash concerns haven’t dampened enthusiasm for the German Autobahn, a haven for speedsters for decades. In announcing his plan, he pointed to a World Health Organization report that estimates road traffic deaths at 4.1 per 100,000 people in Germany compared to 12.4 in the U.S.

His bill would add four lanes to two highways, Interstate 5 and California State Route 99, for drivers who want the convenience of going without a speed limit.

The lanes would be in place of finishing the first leg of California’s high-speed rail line, derided as the “train to nowhere” by critics because the first leg wouldn’t connect to either Los Angeles or San Francisco, the whole point of the line as originally envisioned.

Making matters worse, the Trump administration announced this week that it will cancel $929 million in funding needed to complete the first segment of rail.

After California Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this month that building the entire bullet train line would be too expensive and take too long,Moorlach said a brainstorming session resulted in the American Autobahn idea. Adding lanes would be expensive, but it is “still a whole lot cheaper than $77 billion,” the latest estimated cost of the rail project.

It may be cheaper, but it won’t be safer, experts complain.

Higher speeds not only can increase the frequency of crashes, but the severity as well since vehicles smash into each other at higher combined speeds.

“You can change speed limits, but you can’t change physics,” Vogel said.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the lives of 33,000 motorists and their passengers would have been saved if there had been no speed limit increases between 1993, when states posted highways at either 55 mph or 65 mph, and 2013.

Another IIHS study that looked only at the effect of raising the speed limit to 80 mph in Utah estimated that an increase in traffic speed of only 3 mph, to 78 mph, increased the chance of fatalities by 17 percent.

The other problem is that even with higher limits, people tend to drive faster than they should.

Having gone on trips to Utah and Nevada, where other motorists sometimes whiz by at 90 mph, Chuck Farmer, vice president of research for IIHS, said, “Personally, I find it very uncomfortable.”

“When higher speed signs go up, not only is traffic moving faster but some motorists immediately start exceeding the new posted limit,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. The effect is a “double whammy” on the average speed of traffic.

He calls speeding “the forgotten issue” in traffic safety. It’s ignored because so many drivers push the limits.

“We all do it. There’s no social stigma attached to it,” Adkins said.

California Congestion Bill Could Result in American Autobahn

by Matt PoskyFourtitude News Industry News

While California has some of the best driving roads in the country, large swaths of the state suffer from serious congestion issues. For years, the preferred solution was to bolster public transit in San Francisco and Los Angeles while simultaneously establishing high-speed rail lines between the two areas. Unfortunately, costs ballooned and support for the project dwindled.

Legislators are now left with a problem. Abandoning the rail program means settling for partially completed lines incapable of transporting passengers directly between LA and the Bay Area. California needs a different solution, andSen. John Moorlach (R-CA) has a doozy of a proposition: highway lanes with no speed limit.

Effectively, an American Autobahn.

Senate Bill 319 suggests adding two additional lanes to north and southbound Interstate 5 and Route 99 without limitations to vehicle velocity. While the bill doesn’t expressly state how far these lanes will extend, Automobile claims they would run from Stockton to Bakersfield — a distance of about 240 miles via I-5 or 230 miles via CA-99. This puts the lanes on roughly the same route as the costly rail line.

“If Sacramento is serious about allowing Californians to travel between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and High-Speed Rail will take too long to build, let’s construct four additional lanes with no maximum speed limit to provide for high speed on a safe road,” Moorlach suggested.

While Automobile cites an addendum to SB-319 suggesting that speeds in excess of 100 mph would be punishable by hefty fines, the inclusion stems from existing vehicle code. The bill is clearly aimed at unlimited speeds and will seek exemptions for those lanes, which Moorlach said would be separated.

Critics have complained that California would never go for unlimited speed limits and suggested that the proposal is dangerous. However, statistics have repeatedly proven that Germany’s motorways are less perilous than their U.S. equivalents. Even in the case of the Autobahn, the elevated number of high-speed crashes rarely manage to supersede the number of fatalities witnessed or rural back roads in a given year.

Truth be told, the big hurdle for Senate Bill 319 will be convincing California that it won’t hurt the environment. Trains are seen as the greener option. While unquestionably true when hauling a full load, the matter becomes cloudy when rail lines don’t see a lot of business. Every empty seat means a bigger carbon footprint for those still riding, especially when the train is dependent upon fossil fuels (which includes electric trains sourcing energy from coal- or gas-powered plants).

That’s where SB-319 has an opportunity. Despite spending a fortune on rail lines over the last two decades, Southern California has seen car ownership (and its population) explode and mass transit decline. L.A. Metro, the region’s largest transit provider, said bus ridership fell by 23 percent between 2009 to 2017. Meanwhile, rail usage has increased, though not at a rate that keeps pace with all the state’s new drivers.

By minimizing vehicle idle time, the bill proposes a reduction in overall emissions for the roadways using the added lanes. In fact, it proposes using California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to build them.

While we like the idea, this kind of legislation has a habit of getting modified until the most interesting aspects are removed. If SB-319 does pass, the no-speed-limit angle will likely be altered. But we’re not abandoning all hope.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Oakland Unified School District — February 21, 2019

This morning Oakland Unified School District’s teachers went out on strike. Consequently, I mentioned to my colleagues on the Senate Floor that it’s time to reevaluate public education in the areas of Proposition 98, pension benefits going forward, retiree medical benefit formulas, and school district funding allocations that should make establishing Charter Schools financially seamless and unnoticed. The first piece below is a submission to Fox & Hounds to provide more details on OUSD.

My father put me on snow skis when I was five years old. It started a lifelong passion. There are a few principles you adopt when you progress in skiing abilities. One, have the proper equipment. Two, when it comes to attempting a more difficult slope, remember that the only way to do it, is to do it. If you’re advanced, there are "black diamond" courses for your enjoyment. Three, do not go faster than you can stop. I think all of these are transferable to the idea of having no speed limits on a dedicate stretch of highway.

With that, the second piece is from the electronic version of the OC Register. I was not contacted for background or a quote. The third piece is from Road & Track. I was contacted. I was asked for permission to record, which I granted. What I didn’t anticipate is that it formed the transcript for the piece.

I’ve been getting great questions and we’re doing more research. Obviously, if the building of the lanes is approved, it will take some time to construct them. This will provide plenty of time to establish proper protocols for a highway with no speed limits.

The concern of safety is broached frequently. A study by the National Motorist Association reviewed Montana’s Interstate highways. It found the safest period was when there were no daytime speed limits or enforceable speed laws. In fact, fatal accidents doubled after Montana implemented its new safety program, which included artificially low speed limits and full enforcement.

There have been a number of editorials published, but I’ll provide one with the fourth piece below from I disagree with their conclusion, as the social engineering of trying to move people onto public transit is a failure. The declining ridership statistics bear this out.

The snow capped Sierras are beautiful and can be seen from Sacramento. Enjoy the slopes. Go as fast as you want. Just don’t go faster than you can stop.

Teacher Strike Could Crash Oakland Unified Finances

John Moorlach

By John MoorlachState Senator representing the 37th Senate District

When school finances go bad, it’s the kids who get hurt most. That’s what’s happening in the Oakland Unified School District as its teachers prepare for a potentially “indefinite strike” beginning Thursday, as threatened by Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Teachers Association.

The teachers are seeking a 12 percent pay hike. The district offered 5 percent.

Here are some facts Oakland teachers should consider. First, a district budget deficit of $30 million already means shutting down a dozen schools, reported CBS SF Bay Area.

Next, in my recent analysis of the finances of 944 California public school districts, “Financial Soundness Rankings for California’s Public School Districts, Colleges & Universities,” Oakland Unified ranked 682nd – the bottom third.

The rankings are based on the Unrestricted Net Position, or UNP, from each district’s latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, or CAFR, available on district websites. If negative, it’s called an Unrestricted Net Deficit.

I have found this to be the best metric of a district’s financial soundness. For 2017, the latest available, Oakland Unified’s unrestricted net deficit was $427 million; or $1,001 per capita, based on the overall population the district serves.

However, when the district’s next CAFR comes out, for the first time it will include the liability for the unfunded retiree medical care, almost certainly worsening the unrestricted net deficit.

For example, both sides in the negotiations during the recent Los Angeles Unified School District teacher strike noted the district was in poor financial shape. Ironically, the strike occurred just after December 14, when the LAUSD released its CAFR for the year ending June 30, 2018. The CAFR showed the district’s unrestricted net deficit was $19.6 billion, almost double the $10.9 billion in 2017, because of the inclusion of retiree medical liabilities.

As I noted in a December 27 op-ed, LAUSD’s per capita unrestricted net deficit was $4,180, meaning about 4.7 million people would have to cough up this amount to bring the district to even.

Getting back to the Bright Side of the Bay, last year the district’s finances already were so dismal the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 840, which among other things required Oakland Unified “to develop short and long-term financial plans and update school district facilities plans aligned with their plans for fiscal solvency.” I voted for the bill.

Last October, a warning came from Michael Fine, CEO of the state Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, which supervises the finances of faltering districts, even taking over when necessary. “If you choose not to make a decision, a decision will be made for you,” he threatened.

Reported EdSource, “He and Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Karen Monroe reminded the board that if the district fails to balance its budget, it could need another state loan or the county and state could impose cuts, which would put the district back under state control.”

The district earlier was taken over by the state from 2003 to 2009 as part of a $100 million bailout.

It’s also scandalous how Oakland can’t properly educate its poor children, especially African Americans and Latinos, even though it now has become a wealthy city overall.

Reported World Population Review, “Oakland has the 5th highest cluster of ‘elite zip codes,’ which are ranked by the number of households with the highest combination of education and income, with close to 38 percent of the population over 25 having a bachelor’s degree or higher. Oakland is also in the top 20 cities in the U.S. for median household income.”

Yet according to Great Schools, just 33 percent of Oakland Unified students are “proficient” in English and 27 percent in math on state tests, compared 50 percent and 39 percent statewide, respectively.

The numbers of English proficient students were 24 percent for Hispanics and 19 percent for blacks; and for math, 17 percent for Hispanics and 12 percent for blacks.

Everybody in the state talks about closing the “proficiency gap” for these students, but clearly it’s not being done in Oakland Unified.

In addition to balanced budgets, what’s needed is a switch to performance pay for teachers. Let the best – those who raise student test scores the most – be paid more than the mediocre. And we need to end “last hired, first fired,” which discourages talented young people from becoming teachers. Because, when a recession hits and budgets are cut, seniority takes precedence over teacher talent.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Democratic leadership in the Legislature keep insisting they want to improve the test scores of poor students. Oakland Unified’s financial crisis is an opportunity to insist that tested reforms rewarding teacher competence and student performance be implemented.

For once, let’s put the kids first.

John M. W. Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, represents the 37th District in the California Senate

California Autobahn? Orange County state Senator proposes speed-limit-free lanes to replace high-speed rail project


For Californians who dream of driving at top speeds, a new state bill could provide their fix: four speed-limit-free highway lanes, similar to Germany’s Autobahn, which would allow motorists to zoom up and down the state as fast as they want without penalty.

The plan – introduced last week by Orange County State Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) in State Bill 319 – would add no-speed-limit lanes to Interstate 5 and State Route 99, serving as an alternative to California’s high-speed rail project, which been plagued with delays and cost overruns.

Moorlach’s bill would add northbound and southbound lanes to both highways and would prohibit the state from implementing maximum speeds at a later date. State Route 99 runs almost the entire length of the Central Valley, from Wheeler Ridge to Red Bluff, while I-5 spans the length of the entire state, from Mexico to Oregon.

“If Sacramento is serious about allowing Californians to travel between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and high-speed rail will take too long to build, let’s construct four additional lanes with no maximum speed limit to provide for high speed on a safe road,” Moorlach said in a prepared statement.

Moorlach’s bill arrives as President Donald Trump’s administration announced on Tuesday its plan to rescind the $929 million in grant funds it allocated for California $77-billion bullet train project, which is now $44 billion over budget and 13 years behind schedule. The same day, the U.S. Department of Transportation said it was exploring legal options to take back $2.5 billion in federal funds it contributed to the high-speed rail system. The move to pull federal funds from the rail project came a day after California filed a lawsuit challenging Trump’s declaration of a national emergency aimed at securing funds to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom used his Feb. 12 State of the State address to call for the high-speed rail project to be constrained to focus on opening a 170-mile segment running from Bakersfield to Merced by 2027, with possible extensions to the Bay Area and Southern California much further into the future.

State Bill 319 doesn’t call for the speed-limit-free lanes to fully supplant the bullet train project, but Moorlach’s office said it could at least provide “an expedited transportation option until a substantial High-Speed Rail segment can be built decades in the future.”

But the plan has detractors.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit that works to reduce traffic collisions and deaths, called Moorlach’s proposal “dangerous in the extreme,” noting that high speeds prevent drivers from braking quickly, increasing the likelihood of deadly collisions. Russ Rader, a spokesman for the group, said that while Germany’s Autobahn has lower death rates than U.S. highways, that has only been the case since the late 1980s when speed limits were raised on rural American interstates. Rader said traffic laws also are more strictly enforced in Europe.

“If implemented, (this bill) would threaten the safety of every road user,” Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, wrote in an email. “It’s disheartening to see this kind of proposal when about 10,000 people are killed on our roads in speed-related crashes every year.”

In January, Germany’s government rejected a proposal to impose a speed limit on the Autobahn after a government-appointed committee recommended restricting driving speeds on portions of the famed highway in an effort to cut carbon emissions.

Why a California Lawmaker Is Proposing Highways With No Speed Limit

California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach wants to expand two highways in his districts with no-speed-limit lanes. We spoke with him to learn more about this crazy-sounding proposal.


This week, a California lawmaker made national headlines with his proposal to expand two highways in his district. The expansion itself seems pretty straightforward—adding two northbound and two southbound lanes to Interstate Route 5 and State Route 99, routes that connect Los Angeles to the Bay Area. It’s this part that raised eyebrows: The added lanes would have no posted speed limit.

Senate Bill 319 was introduced by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, the Republican representing California’s 37th senate district covering most of Orange County. The idea of a no-limit highway—and the proposal’s assertion that such a stretch of road could somehow reduce greenhouse gas emissions—certainly piqued our interests. So we reached Sen. Moorlach by phone to find out just what he had in mind with this proposal for an American autobahn. It turns out the Senator is a bit of a gearhead himself: He drives a 1996 Chevy Impala SS, his wife’s daily driver is a 1990 Avanti touring sedan, and he’s got a 1974 Bricklin SV-1 in the garage waiting to become a retirement project.

Below is our conversation, lightly edited for clarity.

Road & Track: How did you come up with this idea?

Sen. Moorlach: A couple things. One, obviously, a need for more lanes. Two, the idea that an autobahn model would certainly be an interesting opportunity for California if we’re talking about high speed. Thirdly, we just have such a wonderful car culture here, we have so many vehicles that really don’t get to be exercised like they might be, say, in Europe.

R&T: One thing you pointed out both in your proposal and in a press release, is that Germany has fewer road traffic deaths per capita than the United States. How do you think removing the speed limit will affect highway safety in California?

Sen. Moorlach: I guess it just goes to the statistics. You’ve been on the autobahn, so thank you very much for understanding. A lot of media representatives just don’t have a clue of what that is. Their first reaction is, this is so unsafe. Yet on a good Sunday morning everybody’s driving 80 mph on the 405 San Diego Freeway in my district. So what’s another 10 mph? I had a radio host yesterday say, my goodness, on Sunday morning, I realized I was doing 94 on a local freeway because it was empty. We have vehicles that can accommodate these speeds, and now you just have to be very aware of what you’re doing. You don’t text. You don’t goof off. You pay attention, and when someone comes up behind you and blinks their lights you just politely move over to the slower lane. It’s not a difficult procedure, but I think for those that appreciate the ability to enjoy a car, they should find that traffic accidents would decline.

R&T: But a huge part of Germany’s road safety comes down to driver training. To get a driver’s license in Germany, you have to go through something like 40 hours of training, with multiple exams. It’s extremely stringent, it takes a lot of time, and it ends up costing the equivalent of a few thousand dollars. Would you want to make California driving laws stricter, or driver training more thorough, along with removing these speed limits?

Sen. Moorlach: That’s an interesting question and I don’t have a hard and fast answer because you’re the first to ask that one. I don’t know if I’m ready to go there, but obviously we need to elevate the discussion [….] Here in California, our department of transportation, CalTrans, has these big signs with messages. And very often the message will be “slower traffic move to the right lanes.” And even that’s a concept that doesn’t seem to make sense to people. So many of us are frustrated when we’re behind someone driving very slow in the fast lane. I don’t know if I would want to get into […] the kind of training that you’re talking about in Germany. But here in California we have different classes of licenses. Class A would allow you to drive a van that would transport kids if you’re a youth group leader, or the boys club. I could see maybe a different class structure as a way to enable this idea.

R&T: Have you ever driven on the German autobahn?
Sen. Moorlach: I have, as a child, but I’ve also driven in northern Europe, the last time was in ’98. It’s quite a fascinating experience.
R&T: On the unlimited parts of the autobahn, you’d think it would be chaos, and it’s not. It’s the most orderly driving I’ve ever experienced.
Sen. Moorlach: They understand driving etiquette. They don’t understand that here in California.
R&T: Would certain types of vehicles be prohibited from the no-speed-limit lanes? Semis, buses, vehicles towing trailers?
Sen. Moorlach: The question that keeps coming up is, would there be a minimum speed. Since the bill is silent, maybe we amend it to say there’s got to be some kind of minimum speed. Obviously it would not be a good idea to be towing a boat or something of that nature. That’s why we’re proposing to add the lanes, so you could go ahead and accommodate vehicles that would move at 80 mph average or higher. The semis would stay in the existing two lanes. We would have to see whether or not we could have some kind of restrictions. We’ll just have to flesh that out.
R&T: In the proposal, you justify removing the speed limit by claiming that doing so would reduce vehicle emissions. Do you have any research or data that backs up that claim?
Sen. Moorlach: Not at my fingertips. We’re making the assumption that if you’re stuck not moving, and you’re idling, then your vehicle’s not really efficiently burning the fuel if you’re using fossil fuels. If you’re moving at a higher speed you’re burning your fossil fuels in a much cleaner manner. That’s intuitive, but do I have hard science? No. I know that Germany is having a tough time reducing their greenhouse gases, but all of their lanes in certain areas are high speed. I don’t have anything solid, but we’re working on it.
R&T: Part of why I ask is because the German government recently proposed putting a speed limit on the entire autobahn, precisely because they’re having trouble meeting their emissions-reduction targets. They found that a nationwide 75 mph highway limit would accomplish 1/5th of their emissions reduction goal. It seems odd to propose the opposite, that removing the speed limit would somehow improve emissions. Am I missing something?

Sen. Moorlach: No, you’re not missing anything. In fact, we wrote the bill and submitted it before that study came out. So when the study came out, I went, doggone it. So, we have to do a little more research, and we’ll see. This state is so focused on greenhouse gases and climate change that when we wrote the bill, that was one of the arguments that we could make to use what we call cap-and-trade funding. We’ll have to keep working on our research.

R&T: Not to be blunt, but does this proposal have any chance of success? I have to imagine there will be opposition from a number of groups.

Sen. Moorlach: We’re finding that, since the media announced that I submitted the bill, the public opinion is about 50-50. Half the people are scared to death to drive fast, the other half are going, yes, give me that opportunity. The issue is not so much that we talk about whether or not there’s a speed limit, but doggone it, why don’t we have at least four more lanes up and down the state as a bridge before you start waiting 15 years for high speed rail. Only two percent of the population in California even gets into a train, and those numbers are declining. We’re saying, let’s do something on these north-south corridors if it is so critical to move people between the Bay Area and LA. So even if we said, let’s have speed limits, we’d still add lanes. Because right now, when you drive the 5 freeway in the Central Valley, one of my pet peeves is, I see a truck in the slow lane, and I’m ready to go around them. There are only two lanes on the 5. And when I’m ready to go around that truck, that truck proceeds to move over into the fast lane to pass another truck. And it takes five, ten minutes for that truck to pass another truck. I know it bothers me, I talk to a lot of others that it bothers. We’re finding that it creates a certain amount of road rage as well, because then people start driving faster to get up to the next group of trucks. We’re finding also that, as we’re dealing with members of the media, the 99, which is the other north-south corridor, is probably rated one of the more dangerous if not the most dangerous road in California. And it could be just due to the fact that it’s got minimum lanes and massive cargo transportation going on it.

R&T: If you had to compromise, would you take more lanes if it meant abandoning the no-speed-limit zones?

Sen. Moorlach: Yep.

R&T: How would the no-speed-limit zones affect the Highway Patrol’s ability to enforce traffic laws?

Sen. Moorlach: If you’re not going to be cited for speed, the CHP still has the other four lanes from which to generate revenue. There’s the 91 freeway in Orange County which has four lanes in the middle of it which are toll lanes. Those are completely monitored by cameras, and we have a control center where people are watching all the screens. You would actually have staff that would monitor how driving is occurring […] I would sense that everyone’s gonna be driving at a safe level because their goal is not to break the sound barrier, their goal is to get to the destination. They’re not gonna jeopardize their lives, or the lives of their passengers, in these proposed lanes. But if they aren’t paying attention or something does happen, we would at least have individuals monitoring, and seeing if maybe a car has, let’s say, spun out. Then we would have tow trucks, like we have in Orange County, that would respond within minutes because you don’t want to have anyone blocking those lanes, you want to get everybody off. So I would think that we could use the technology that’s already in place to make sure that those that utilize lanes of that nature would be smart, would have the right etiquette, and would be paying attention.

R&T: What’s the next step for this proposal?

Sen. Moorlach: In the state legislature of California, after you introduce a bill, you have to wait 30 days before it can be referred to a committee. I would expect a month to go by, and then it might go to transportation committee. It might be referred to more committees, maybe even environmental committee since we’re dealing with greenhouse gases. We’ll probably get it killed in the first committee meeting [laughs]. We’ll see if we can get it through. But at least we’re sparking a debate. I misjudged the reaction to this bill. I didn’t even do a press release until yesterday afternoon. I got kind of caught off guard. We’re just trying to provide some ideas. I did not expect our governor to make a big deal out of high-speed rail, and kind of hint that he thought it was too expensive, it was taking too long and it had no accountability. So I’m thinking, it’s kind of interesting timing, but why don’t we do something in the meantime? If we’re trying to move people, we’re trying to get them from LA to San Francisco and back, give them the lanes and let them go.

R&T: The proposal is definitely making a splash.

Sen. Moorlach: My district in Orange County has the most new-car dealers of any district. It has everything: McLaren, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, everything. The Lamborghini dealership, I can walk to it from my house, literally a block away. We’ve got everything here. But if you really want to enjoy those cars, you have to break the law. That or you go to a track, and we don’t really have a lot of tracks [….] Even my Impala, which is how many years old, at 2000 RPM cruises quietly and comfortably at 80 mph.

R&T: And at that point you’re already breaking the law.

Sen. Moorlach: Exactly. In fact, in California, sometimes if you’re not doing 80, you’re slowing people down. I did get ticketed once for doing a little more than that. I kind of chewed out the officer, saying, I’m not gonna jeopardize my wife and son, but the cars are flying past me here [….] I said, you better tell me how fast I can go to get home without being cited. Sometimes if you’re doing the posted speed limit, you’re actually being the slow driver. We’re getting truck drivers calling, saying, how come you’re still limiting us to 55 mph? We’ve got deadlines, we’ve got time constraints. We had one call yesterday saying, I got cited for doing 69—14 miles over the limit—it cost me 500 bucks, and the CHP officer said, sorry, I feel bad, but I’m just doing my job upholding the state law. There’s a lot of things that we can look at here as to how we’re dealing with speed limits and traffic flow.

California Autobahn With No Speed Limit Proposed By State Senator

Anthony Karr

But is it really going to happen? Highly unlikely.

We are all passionate gearheads here at And that means we love powerful cars and high speed. But there’s one major piece of detail – we like them only when it’s alllegal. For all of us, there’s a place on the Earth where speed limits don’t exist and it’s called the Autobahn – Germany’s federal highway where certain sections are unrestricted.

Apparently, California State Senator John Moorlach knows about this Heaven on Earth and wants to bring this gearhead utopia to Interstate 5 in California. Last week, he introduced a Senate bill (SB 319) to state legislature which calls for two additional traffic lanes to be built by the Department of Transportation on the north and southbound directions of both the I-5 and State Route 99 highways. And, you guessed it, he wants those lanes to have no speed limits.

“Traffic congestion increases the emissions of greenhouse gases as it causes automobiles to idle longer while on roadways,” SB 319 states.

Moorlach is most concerned by the greenhouse gas emissions and claims no speed limits would lead to fewer cars idling, respectively fewer emissions. The proposal says that funding for the new lanes would come from Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

Safety is great, but so is having fun:

Why Can’t I Go Fast: Speed Limits Explained

This indeed sounds like something we want to see become a reality but the truth is it’s probably not going to happen. The bill already has critics such as Bill Magavern, a spokesperson for the Coalition for Clean Air, who says Moorlach’s logic just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

"In fact, it would increase emission of greenhouse gas," Magavern comments. "Emission goes up at high speeds; this would encourage people to drive cars really fast on our highway, and that would increase emissions coming from transportation… the only sector where emissions are increasing in California."

So, obviously, chances are not really high that the SB 319 proposal would materialize. "This money would be much better spent on increasing mobility for our communities through improved public transit," Magavern adds. We hate to admit it, but he is probably right.


This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — High Speed Road Idea — February 20, 2019

Observing how people react to ideas is a fascinating exercise. In 1963, a games designer for Ideal Toys came up with the idea that a soldier doll that could move into various positions and poses, versus the traditional green static plastic soldier, would be a hit. Ideal Toys, however, assumed boys would not play with dolls. By rejecting the idea, it missed the opportunity to profit from the GI Joe phenomenon. That employee went instead to Hasbro, who liked the concept because they could, like the Barbie phenomenon, also sell additional clothes and gear. The rest is history.

Reactions to SB 319, an idea outside of the norm, are coming in fast and furious (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 High Speed Road — February 19, 2019). The media contacts have been numerous, so I’m only giving you a sampling today of pieces where I was actually interviewed with two bonuses. Many journalists are intrigued that a state legislator would want to do more with our highways than has been done in years. With new trends, like self-driving vehicles, fast zero-emission vehicles, shared economy ride sharing, scooters and declining public transit ridership, it’s time to have a thorough debate on how California deals with transportation.

The Sacramento FOX News affiliate, Fox 40, came by my office, and is the first piece below. USA Today is the second piece. The Daily Pilot provides the third. The LA Times (electronic) provides their Sacramento coverage in the fourth piece and, as a bonus, their world-famous columnist Steve Lopez provides some humor on the "craziness" in the dead tree version in the fifth piece. For another Central Valley perspective, enjoy the link with the Your Central in the sixth piece below.

One theme that does come out of it all is good driver etiquette is lacking in our state. Californians should become better drivers. Let’s hope my High Speed Road idea doesn’t suffer from the barrage of "killer phrases" like "we’ve never done it this way before." Some have missed new trends and great opportunities at their chagrin with such an attitude.

Bill Would Create New Lanes on I-5, Highway 99 — With No Speed Limits


SACRAMENTO — For years, the state has been looking for a faster, easier way to travel between Northern and Southern California.

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, has proposed new legislation to do just that.

"We thought let’s go ahead and have four lanes in the middle of the right of way, and let’s offer the opportunity to have no speed limit,” Moorlach said.

Moorlach’s bill, SB 319, would create two lanes in each direction on Interstate 5 and Highway 99 where drivers could put the pedal to the metal — similar to Germany’s Autobahn.

Moorlach says it’s an idea that could be a reality much faster than California’s high-speed rail.

"We’re just trying to provide some solutions,” he told FOX40. “Yes, they might be difficult but let’s think outside the box because this high-speed rail thing isn’t penciling out.”

Truck driver Herbert Ratliff feels the idea would clear more space on the road for big rigs, which have to travel slower.

“It would definitely help out,” Ratliff said. “It would get them out of our way, basically.”

But some drivers, like Ashley Tell, who commutes on I-5 daily, say they will steer clear.

"I don’t think that’s safe,” Tell said. “A lot of people already drive over the speed limit and it can cause and has caused accidents."

A recent study found Highway 99 to be the most dangerous road in the country, with the most deaths on the freeway.

Moorlach feels the dedicated fast lanes would instead make these freeways safer.

"The data shows that in Germany, we have less accidents,” Moorlach said.

The California Highway Patrol and High-Speed Rail Authority would not comment on pending legislation.

German-style autobahn coming to California? One lawmaker sees the need for speed

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VISALIA, Calif. – Forget about the high-speed rail zipping commuters from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

One Southern California politician, state Sen. John Moorlach, has introduced a bill that would do away with speed limits for certain lanes on I-5 and Highway 99 – two vital roadways that stretch across the Golden State.

The measure would require the Department of Transportation to expand the 235-mile stretches from Bakersfield to Stockton on both sides of I-5 and Highway 99 by two lanes.

If you think this sounds like the premise of “Mad Max” movie, some California motorists would agree.

"I would stay off the freeway," Vikki Short said. "There are enough crazy drivers (without) taking away the speed limit."

Moorlach points to what he describes as the safer and less congested German autobahn system, which features some stretches with no speed limits.

“The stats prove that driving in Germany is safer,” the Orange County Republican said. “And, there’s less congestion.”

Moorlach’s opinion is popular among some.

"The autobahn works just fine in Germany, why not here," Joey Torres said. "Of course, there will always those ‘what if’ people but no is forcing you to get on it. These are the kind of out of the box ideas that need to be proposed to taxpayers when proposing tax increases."

And what about Central California’s notorious Tule Fog in the winter and dust storms in the summer that often cut down visibility on Highway 99 and I-5?

“Drivers will need to use common sense of course,” Moorlach said. “I don’t think people will drive 100 mph in a dust storm.”

Other Californians see the proposal as an opportunity.

"I think it’d be a huge tourist attraction for California," said Kara Vincent-Grim. "People will come from all over the US to use the only No Limit road to finally be able to drive their high-end sports cars."

Moorlach’s proposal comes after the news that California Gov. Gavin Newsom is scaling back on plans to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The cost of the project had ballooned to $77 billion.

“Let’s be real,” Newsom said in his first State of the State address on Feb. 12. “The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.”

Newsom, though, said he wants to finish construction already underway on a segment of the high-speed train through the Central Valley. The project would connect a 119-mile stretch from Merced to Bakersfield.

Moorlach proposal has some questions, though. The cost of building two additional traffic lanes on I-5 and Highway 99 isn’t known yet.

Moorlach proposes replacing the proposed bullet train with Autobahn-like lanes


If Californians can’t have high-speed steel rails, a proposed bill would allow them to at least legally use their lead feet to get from the south to the north.

State Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) introduced a bill last week to add two dedicated, speed-limit-free lanes to Interstate 5 and State Route 99 to replace California’s beleaguered $77-billion bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, which is $44 billion over budget and 13 years behind schedule — or at least act as a stop-gap.

“If Sacramento is serious about allowing Californians to travel between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and high-speed rail will take too long to build, let’s construct four additional lanes with no maximum speed limit to provide for high speed on a safe road,” Moorlach said.

Under Senate Bill 319, the 5 and the 99 would get two dedicated lanes in each direction the full length of both freeways — Mexico to Oregon for the 5, Wheeler Ridge to Red Bluff for the 99 — that would allow motorists to travel faster than the speed limit, which is 65 to 70 mph.

Moorlach’s proposal doesn’t estimate a price tag for the project, but identifies cap-and-trade revenues as the funding source.

“It is the intent of the Legislature to provide Californians with a viable alternative to the high-speed rail system project by providing them with access to high-speed, unabated transportation across the state,” the bill reads. “It is further the intent of the Legislature to decrease traffic congestion and thereby decrease the emissions of greenhouse gases caused by automobiles.”

In his announcement for the bill, Moorlach said the Autobahn-esque lanes would replace “the defunct high-speed rail project — or at least [provide] an expedited transportation option until a substantial high-speed rail segment can be built decades in the future.”

That references comments Gov. Gavin Newsom made earlier this month in his State of the State address, when he was reassessing, though not halting the project.

California lawmaker wants to give the state its own high-speed Autobahn


With the state hitting the brakes on the proposed bullet train project, one lawmaker has offered an alternative to get Californians quickly from north to south: expanding Interstate 5 and Highway 99 to install new lanes without speed limits.

Sen. John Moorlach (R- Costa Mesa) said Tuesday he wants California to have its own version of the German Autobahn on two lanes to be added in each direction on the pair of major north-south freeways.

His legislation, Senate Bill 319, would get work started on the new limit-free lanes on I-5 roughly between Lebec in the Grapevine in the south, and Sacramento or Stockton in the north using some of the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by the state’s cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to purchase credits if they pollute.

Moorlach said he was working on the proposal before Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed this month to scale back the high-speed rail project, noting that plan was already facing many years of delay.

“We are waiting decades for high speed rail to get finished,” Moorlach said. “Why can’t we build 300 miles of four-lane concrete in five years at a fraction of the cost, so people aren’t backed up behind trucks to get to San Francisco on the 5?”

“If they wish to use the autobahn lanes, we call it the high-speed road — they are going to get to their destination a little faster,” he added.

He said a car traveling 100 mph could make the trip from Stockton to the Grapevine in about two and a half hours in the proposed lanes.

The bill does not include an estimated cost to build hundreds of miles of new freeway lanes.

But based on one possible cost scenario, the project might cost $3 billion in cap-and-trade funding, saidMoorlach, a former Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector.

Moorlach’s proposal faces a rough road in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Although current Democratic leaders did not immediately respond to requests for comment, former Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson raised doubts about the proposal.

“It would make more sense to invest in increased maintenance on Highway 99 and I-5 which suffer from significant deterioration due to extraordinary use, particularly from heavy-duty vehicles,” said Dickinson, executive director of Transportation California, a coalition of construction industry and labor groups. “Regardless of the merits of Senator Moorlach’s proposal, it would appear extremely difficult to justify the use of cap-and-trade funds for the project he proposes.”

Moorlach said the use of the funds is justified, noting that having cars sitting in idle traffic on freeways increases greenhouse gas emissions.

The maximum speed limit in California is 70 miles per hour, but Moorlach said the federal government has allowed other states to post higher speed limits. In Montana and Utah, the limit is 80 miles per hour on some roads, while Texas allows some drivers to travel at 85 mph.

Anticipating concerns about traffic safety on freeways without speed limits, Moorlach cited a World Health Organization study that estimated road traffic deaths per 100,000 people is 4.1 in Germany, but 12.4 in the United States.

Moorlach’s proposal comes just days after Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his first State of the State speech that he would consider scaling back the proposed $77-billion high-speed rail project.

Newsom said California has the ability to finish the first leg in the Central Valley, but that extending the rail line to Southern California and the Bay Area would "cost too much and, respectfully, take too long."

The project, approved by California voters in 2008, promised to speed riders from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours.

Representatives for the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans said Tuesday the agencies do not comment on pending legislation.

Moorlach, who drives a 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS, said he would be among the motorists driving at 100 mph if his proposal comes to fruition.

“Why slow me down?” he asked. “On a clear day everyone is going 80 mph. These vehicles are technological wonders. They are built for high speed and we have no place in California to stretch them unless you are willing to break the law, and that doesn’t make sense.”

Bullet trains? Monorails? An end to speed limits? California’s transportation future is going to be a wild ride


On Monday, my wife and daughter and I traveled home from Oakland by plane, and on landing in Burbank, my wife immediately did the math.

Door to door, our trip would have taken only 90 minutes longer if we had driven, and it would have been much cheaper.

Should we have traveled by sedan instead of by Southwest Airlines?

If the high-speed rail line were up and running, and both the time and price were somewhere between flying and driving, that might have been a preferable option.

But the train is stuck in limbo, and it’s not clear from his conflicting statements whether Gov. Gavin Newsom just blew the whistle or leaped off the caboose. I want to slap myself for saying this, but you can hardly blame President Trump for seizing the opportunity to announce Tuesday that he’s trying to stiff us on a $929-million federal grant for the project.

I’ll revisit the bullet train in a moment, but given the likelihood that we’re never going to get it together on rail, state Sen. John Moorlach of Orange County has pitched a bill to create lanes along the 5 and 99 Freeways through the Central Valley on which you could drive like hell, with no speed limits.

Buckle up, hit the gas and go. Burbank is a blur, Fresno a flash. You’re moving so fast, you can’t even smell the cow manure at Harris Ranch.

If Moorlach’s idea sounds crazy to you, there’s a reason for that.

It is.

By my calculations, half the people behind the wheel don’t know what they’re doing at any speed. Do we want lawmakers telling them to pretend they’re NASCAR drivers?

Back when Montana law allowed you to drive as fast as you considered “reasonable and prudent,” I rented a car in Great Falls and drove at the speed of sound (approximately) to Helena, where the Legislature was already considering a return to numerical speed limits.

When I hit 112 miles an hour in a Toyota Camry, my teeth rattled, the doors felt like they might blow off and the ghosts of my ancestors danced before me.

Even free-spirited, get-off-our-backs Montanans realized this was insane, and imposed a 75-mph speed limit in 1999.

But Californians are a delusional denomination, and we can’t let go of the dream that getting from here to there is going to be easier one day, even though all our choices guarantee the exact opposite. We keep growing, we move ever greater distances from our jobs, and 3 in 4 of us drive alone in our cars.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is studying congestion pricing, and my vote is yes, right now, let’s go. You take the most congested places in the region and charge people to drive in those areas when traffic is worst, which means that some drivers won’t bother. So there’s less traffic and less pollution.

Yeah, there are downsides. You don’t want a system that punishes the poor and gives rich people yet another break. But it’s worked elsewhere and it can work here, if planners could design a system that gives a break to low-income people who have to drive for their jobs. Then you take the congestion fees to build more and better transit.

The same MTA is considering transit options for the Sepulveda Pass, including tunneling through the mountain or stringing a monorail up and over the hill. That’s how desperate we are to relieve congestion — we can’t stop looking to Disneyland for answers.

OK, fine, but why are we always focused on the wrong ride? Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the model we should be looking to. Make transit easy, fun and economical and people might ditch their cars. If the open-air Big Thunder train barreled over and through the pass, with passengers screaming and their hair flying as they blew by the Getty, I’d move to Sherman Oaks just to ride it every day.

But seriously, we’re never going to get anywhere, so to speak, without some smart local decisions and more clarity from Sacramento.

I appreciated Jerry Brown’s push for the bullet train as a centerpiece of his green agenda, but Uncle Jerry did a lousy job of selling the train, and his vision ended up being more of a hallucination. Way too many delays, massive cost overuns, millions in lawsuits and no funding in sight going forward. On Tuesday, the chairman of the high-speed rail board resigned.

As a candidate, Gavin Newsom was so wishy-washy you couldn’t tell where he stood. And when he finally spoke last week, he only created more confusion. One day it sounded like the train was dead; the next day Newsom said the media blew the story.

What did we do wrong?

We quoted him.

“But let’s be real,” Newsom had said in a speech. “The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were. However, we do have the capacity to complete a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield.”

Does that look unclear to you?

It doesn’t to me.

I figured it meant the train was off the rails. Others saw it the same way, and the backlash was immediate.

Newsom’s people then scrambled to straighten things out, and the governor himself attempted to clarify, saying he hasn’t given up on the bigger project.

If that’s true, I’d like to make one recommendation to the governor.

Go to Disneyland, take a ride on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and imagine traveling from San Diego to San Francisco on that.

A state proposed bill would eliminate speed limits for certain lanes on I-5 and Highway 99


FRESNO, California – A proposed state bill is making its way through the state capital, it would do away with speed limits on Interstate 5 and Highway 99.

State Senator John Moorlach wrote SB 319, it would require Cal-Trans to build two additional traffic lanes, with now maximum speed limit.
The other lanes of traffic would still ban drivers from going more than 65 miles per hour.

"Let the people that want to speed, speed. Let the people that want to take their time get into the lanes that they can go slower," Debi Hernandez said.

Hernandez said other countries like Germany have the autobahn, which works for them.

" It would sure help with the high speed rail, we wouldn’t have to deal with all of the cost of that so people can get to where they want to go up and down the San Joaquin Valley," she said.

For others, they think drivers in California can’t handle a no speed limit highway lane.

"It will cause more accidents. I mean that is why we have speed limits to avoid accidents," Ned Mallory said.

This is still a proposed bill which will need a signature from Governor Gavin Newsom for it to become law.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 High Speed Road — February 19, 2019

It was one of those days where it was difficult to keep up with the media inquiries about my new bill, SB 319. It started last night with a couple of Facetime interviews with Sacramento area television news networks.

This bill has taken on a life of its own and there have been a flurry of media calls and camera crew visits, with requests for radio show interviews.

Why? Because SB 319 proposes to add four lanes to the 5 and 99 Freeways north of the Grapevine and allow the users to drive without being subject to a speed limit (see

The world is going bonkers over this simple proposal. I’m even mentioned in MotorTrend, a magazine I used to read cover to cover in high school. I’ve arrived. But, the reporter did not read the bill correctly, as the 100 mph limit is current law, which my bill would eliminate for the four lanes. And, another critical detail, the lanes would be separated.

Since I’ve never encountered so much media attention on one of my bills, I misjudged this one. We finally issued a press release this afternoon. So, I’m sure tomorrow’s coverage will be national, too.

ABC 10 in Sacramento was my first interview and is the first piece below, with an accompanying newsletter posting, which is the second piece.

ABC 7 – Los Angeles is the third piece. KRON 4 is the fourth. KTLA 5 is the fifth. Automobile/MotorTrend is the sixth. East County Today, providing the bill’s language, is the seventh. ABC 30 Fresno is the eighth. And CBS 13 Sacramento is the ninth. And I’ll stop there, as I could provide a dozen more. You get the picture.

The deadline to submit bills is this Friday. So, there may be more excitement. But, it will be difficult to duplicate today’s fun.

California bill would remove speed limits for new lanes on I-5, HWY 99

The bill would add two new lanes to northbound and southbound I-5 and Highway 99 while also removing speed limits for those specific lanes.

Author: Eric Escalante, Ananda Rochita

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A new California bill introduced by a Southern California senator would add additional lanes no maximum speed limit to north and southbound Interstate 5 and Highway 99.

The bill was introduced by state Senator John Moorlach (R-Orange County). As it is written, the bill would initiate a project for the Department of Transportation to construct two additional lanes on north and southbound I-5 and Highway 99.

“We didn’t see high speed rail moving along quickly,” said Moorlach. “Obviously that was affirmed at the State of the State address. We have a lot of open space between the north and southbound lanes and the number of areas where the 5 and 99, so why not allow cars to travel up and down the State of California at speeds that are manageable and controllable.”

Moorlach pointed to Germany’s Autobahn as an example. The Autobahn is a federally controlled access highway with no speed limits for some vehicles in areas that aren’t urbanized, under construction or accident prone.

According to some estimates, the average speed on the Autobahn is around 93 mph, with top speeds often reaching upwards to 125 mph in more rural areas.

“If the point is to move people and get them up and down the state, and we have the right of way available, why don’t we just start building lanes and utilizing the vehicles that we have now that’s why we’re proposing it,” Moorlach said.

However, these new traffic lanes would be different from the others in that they would not have speed limits.

According to the bill’s language, the intent is to provide California with a viable alternative to the high-speed rail system and reduce greenhouse gases.

As far as funding, money for the project would come from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. The rationale being that traffic congestion from idling cars increases the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and constructing those additional lanes along I-5 and HWY 99 would reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.

Some people have brought up their concerns of safety. Moorlach says people will be more aware.

“You’re safer and more cognizant of what you’re doing and how fast you’re going and so it’s a different attitude on how to drive,” Moorlach said. “These lanes would hopefully be segregated so you don’t have slow people and trucks on these four dedicated lanes.”

The Daily Blend: No speed limits? California bill would make it so

Does this sound ridiculous? Maybe. But it works in Germany, and that’s what Moorlach is hoping people might realize. Here are the details.

Author: Kristopher Hooks

California bill would remove speed limits for new lanes on I-5, HWY 99 – If all goes according to Sen. John Moorlach’s (R-Orange County) plan, California will have some highways with no speed restrictions. Does this sound ridiculous? Maybe. But it works in Germany, and that’s what Moorlach is hoping people might realize. Here are the details: As it’s written, the bill make the state’s Department of Transportation to construct two additional lanes on north and southbound I-5 and Highway 99, all of which would have no speed limits in certain area. Moorlach pointed to Germany’s Autobahn, a federally controlled access highway with no speed limits for some vehicles in certain, less-urbanized areas. According to some estimates, the average speed on the Autobahn is around 93 mph, with top speeds often reaching upwards to 125 mph in more rural areas. This bill was just introduced last week, so it’s not clear how far it will actually make it. But Moorlach is hoping it could be a replacement for the currently stalled high-speed rail project. (ABC10)


No more speed limits: Bill seeks to eliminate speed limits for parts of 5 Freeway, Highway 99

California roads can be pretty hectic. Imagine what it would be like to drive with no speed limit on parts of the 5 Freeway and Highway 99?

That’s what Orange County State Sen. John Moorlach is proposing.

The Republican lawmaker has introduced a bill proposing the construction of two additional northbound and southbound lanes to both highways, allowing drivers to go faster than the current speed limits. Speed limits would remain on the older lanes.

Moorlach’s bill says the intent is to provide an alternative to the “high speed rail system” while reducing greenhouse gases.

The bill must pass with majority votes in the State Senate.

California lawmaker proposes building new lanes on 2 major highways with no speed limit


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – A California lawmaker wants to build new lanes on two highways — with no speed limit.

Senator John Moorlach says it’s all in an effort to cut back on air pollution and greenhouse gases.

He says when you’re in traffic, your car is emitting gases that are bad for the environment.

Moorlach says he wants to see two lanes on each side of both I-5 and Highway 99 — that’s from Bakersfield to Stockton.

Although he doesn’t have a price tag yet, the senator says his plan is more realistic than a high-speed rail that’s still years away from being built.

“So why don’t we provide people with vehicles the opportunity just to drive at 100 miles an hour, get to San Francisco in a shorter period of time than a train would? We’ve already paid for the right of way, we don’t have to buy that. So now it’s just how much per mile is the concrete going to cost?”

If the bill passes, it would mean a new northbound and southbound lanes on both I-50 and State Route 99.

The other lanes on those highways would have a 65-mile-an-hour speed limit.

O.C. Lawmaker Proposes New Lanes on 5 Fwy With No Speed Limit as Alternative to High-Speed Rail



A state lawmaker from Orange County recently introduced legislation to build additional lanes with no maximum speed limit on two California highways.

Republican State Sen. John Moorlach’s proposal calls for additional north and southbound lanes on stretches of Interstate 5 and State Route 99. The two highways run parallel to one another through the state’s Central Valley.

For the 5 Freeway, which runs through Orange and Los Angeles counties, Moorlach told KTLA in an interview Tuesday that he envisioned the new lanes beginning at the bottom of the Grapevine and going to the Stockton area – but possibly up to Sacramento, if possible.

“You’ve got a lot of open space between the north and southbound lanes,” Moorlach explained. “So why don’t we just go ahead and build four lanes, two north, two south … and then the drivers on those two lanes would be able to use any speed that they wish.”

Motorists using the special lanes — which would be segregated from the ones that currently comprise the interstate – would then be unobstructed by semi-trucks and trailers that frequent the road, he noted.

“People are already driving 80 mph on the freeway,” Moorlach said. “So why don’t we allow them to go a little faster?”

Moorlach told KTLA he came up with the idea in part to help ease traffic and reduce greenhouse gases, but also to provide an alternative to the state’s controversial high-speed rail, a portion of which is currently under construction in the Central Valley.

“The idea was, ‘Nothing’s moving,’” he said. “If this thing is going to take 10, 20 years, we could probably build lanes in a very short period, maybe 3 or 4 or 5 years.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently cast doubt on part of the project when he said during his State of the State address last Tuesday that there wasn’t “a path” for completing the section between Los Angeles and San Francisco. His office, however, said the governor is still committed to building it.

Newsom cited cost as a significant concern, as the latest estimates show the approximately 520-mile stretch of rail would cost about $77 billion, according to the Associated Press.

The price tag was something else Moorlach noted to be a major advantage of his plan versus the bullet train.

“You don’t have to buy the land, which has been one of the big expense components of high-speed rail, is all the eminent domain,” he explained.

Since the state already owns the land, all the cost of building the lanes would be related to construction.

And as far as safety goes, Moorloch said he has some evidence indicating support for his plan.

“We did some analysis, and the traffic incidents on the Audubon in Germany” – where there is no speed limit – “are lower than the freeways in California. So they’re actually safer,” he said.

In a news release, his office cited a World Health Organization study showing the estimated road traffic deaths per 100,000 people is lower in Germany than in the United States – 4.1 versus 12.4.

Since Senate Bill 319 is in its infancy, having just been introduced last Friday, Moorlach said he doesn’t expect any action to be taken on the bill anytime soon. The state senator indicated a possibly long process in getting approval, as the bill hasn’t even been assigned to a committee yet.

“If this state, and Sacramento, think it’s so important to allow people to … be transported between these two metropolitan areas, then maybe we ought to give them a sporting chance,” he said.

No Speed Limits? California Considering “Unlimited” Lanes on Two Highways

If passed, the lanes would be added to I-5 and California Route 99.

By: Erik Johnson

California state senator John Moorlach (R-Orange County) has introduced a bill to that state’s legislature that would add lanes to both north- and southbound Interstate 5 and State Route 99 that would have no posted speed limit.

SB319 does not itself state the specific stretches of road where the lanes would be added, but local reports indicate the lanes would run from Stockton to Bakersfield, a distance of approximately 240 miles via I-5 or 230 miles via CA-99.

While some reports tout the lanes as unlimited, the bill would implement a functional limit of 100 mph, with a first violation for exceeding that speed resulting in a fine of $500, a second within three years a fine of $750, and a third within five years a fine of $1000 and the suspension of that driver’s license.

According to the bill, money for construction of the lanes would be drawn from California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. Moorlach doesn’t give an estimated cost for the project, but says the state already owns the right of way necessary for the lanes. The bill is being pitched as a way to cut idling in traffic and therefore reduce greenhouse gases, as well as a quicker and more easily implemented solution to easing gridlock than a long-distance high-speed rail line that was recently canceled.

Moorlach also defends his proposal as safer. “If you look at what’s happening in Germany, the freeway accidents on the autobahn are a lot less than what’s happening on our roads.” Neither the bill nor Moorlach have so far addressed driver training that may be necessary for drivers unaccustomed to traveling at such speeds; Germany’s more rigorous driver-education system makes acquiring a license more difficult and costly than is typical in the United States. Additionally, there is no detail as to whether there would be a minimum speed limit for the lanes or if they would be kept separate from other lanes where the speed limit would remain 65 mph. SB 319 also contains a “stay right except to pass” lane-discipline clause, however.

The highest posted speed limit in the United States is currently 85 mph, on a 41-mile section of State Highway 130 in Texas. Montana had no daytime speed limit until 1974, when the federal 55-mph limit was passed, and again from that law’s repeal in December 1995 until the enactment of a 75-mph limit in May 1999.

Senator Moorlach Introduces Bill That Would Eliminate Speed Limit on I-5, Highway 99


Last week, Senator John Moorlach (R-Orange County) introduced Senate Bill 319 which could eliminate the speed limits on certain lanes on Interstate-5 and Highway 99.

The bill calls for construction of two additional northbound and southbound lanes on I-5 and Highway 99 and would prohibit the imposition of a maximum speed limit for those traffic lanes.

The bill calls for funds to be reallocated from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to the California Department of Transportation for the purpose of reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases by constructing additional traffic lanes on Interstate Route 5 and State Route 99.

It is the intent of the Legislature to provide Californians with a viable alternative to the high-speed rail system project by providing them with access to high-speed, unabated transportation across the state. It is further the intent of the Legislature to decrease traffic congestion and thereby decrease the emissions of greenhouse gases caused by automobiles.


SB 319, as introduced, Moorlach. State highways: Interstate Route 5: State Route 99: speed limits.
(1) Existing law states that the Department of Transportation has full possession and control of the state highway system. Existing law prohibits a person from driving a vehicle upon a highway with a speed limit established pursuant to specified provisions at a speed greater than that speed limit. Existing law prohibits a person from driving a vehicle upon a state highway at a speed greater than 65 miles per hour.
This bill would require the department to initiate a project to construct two additional traffic lanes on northbound and southbound Interstate Route 5 and State Route 99, and would prohibit the imposition of a maximum speed limit for those traffic lanes.
(2) The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 designates the State Air Resources Board as the state agency charged with monitoring and regulating sources of emissions of greenhouse gases. The act authorizes the state board to include the use of market-based compliance mechanisms. Existing law requires all moneys, except for fines and penalties, collected by the state board as part of a market-based compliance mechanism to be deposited in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and to be available for appropriation by the Legislature. Existing law continuously appropriates 35% of the annual proceeds of the fund for transit, affordable housing, and sustainable communities programs and 25% of the annual proceeds of the fund for certain components of a specified high-speed rail project.
This bill would appropriate an unspecified amount from the fund to the department for the purpose of reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases by constructing additional traffic lanes on Interstate Route 5 and State Route 99.
Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 5.27.28 PM

New California bill could eliminate speed limit on I-5, Highway 99

A new bill proposed by a Southern California senator could eliminate the speed limit on lanes of Interstate-5 and Highway 99.

Senator John Moorlach (R-Orange County) introduced the bill Feb. 15. It proposes the construction of two additional northbound and southbound lanes to I-5 and Highway 99 and would allow drivers on those two lanes to drive faster than the current state speed limit of 65 miles-per-hour.

The new bill would also allocate funds from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to the Department of Transportation to reduce greenhouse gases produced from the construction of the two additional lanes.

The bill must pass with majority votes in the State Senate.

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 5.27.35 PM
California May Do Away With Speed Limits For Certain Lanes Of I-5 And Hwy. 99
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – California may do away with speed limits for certain lanes on I-5 and Highway 99, in order to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases.

Senator John Moorlach (R- Orange County) introduced SB 319 on Friday. If passes, it would require the Department of Transportation to built two additional traffic lanes on northbound and southbound Interstate 5 and State Route 99. Those new lanes would have no maximum speed limit. The other lanes of traffic would still ban drivers from going more than 65 miles per hour.

According to the bill language, traffic congestion causes vehicle to idle longer and that leads to more green gas emissions.

California did pass the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 which requires the State Air Resources Board to monitor and regulate the source of greenhouse gas emissions. As for the money used to operate the program, “Existing law requires all moneys, except for fines and penalties, collected by the state board as part of a market-based compliance mechanism to be deposited in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and to be available for appropriation by the Legislature. Existing law continuously appropriates 35% of the annual proceeds of the fund for transit, affordable housing, and sustainable communities programs and 25% of the annual proceeds of the fund for certain components of a specified high-speed rail project.”

The High-Speed Rail is expected to be completed in 2033; however, Governor Gavin Newsom said in last week’s State of the State that the focus would initially be on a street of high-speed rail from Bakersfield to Merced. SB 319 aims to give drivers in California access to high-speed transportation in the absence of high-speed rail.

The cost of building two additional traffic lanes on I-5 and Hwy. 99 isn’t known yet.



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MOORLACH UPDATE — Santa Clara County School Districts — February 14, 2019

A local prominent legislative advocate posted my review of Sacramento County’s school districts yesterday and it generated significant activity (MOORLACH UPDATE — Sacramento County School Districts — January 14, 2019). Residents should be concerned about their school districts and how they can assist in addressing distressed balance sheets.

Below, in Fox & Hounds, I provide a review of Santa Clara County’s school districts. For other counties, see:

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Los Angeles County School Districts — December 2, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — School Districts of San Diego County — November 16, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — San Diego County School Districts — November 7, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — San Bernardino County School Districts — November 5, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Public Schools Financial Crisis — November 3, 2018.

* MOORLACH UPDATE — San Bernardino County School Districts — November 5, 2018

Orange County:

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Facing Fiscal Realities — October 30, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Trick or Treat? — October 26, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Get Mad, Get Motivated — October 19, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — LAUSD vs. OC School Districts — September 18, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Measure It, Improve It — March 14, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — City CAFR Rankings, Vol. 10 — February 27, 2018

Just one Santa Clara County School District Outputs a Positive Balance Sheet

John Moorlach

By John MoorlachState Senator representing the 37th Senate District

Silicon Valley might have to change its name to Red Ink Valley. Officially named Santa Clara County, just one of its 31 public school districts, Orchard Elementary, enjoys a positive balance sheet, according to my tally of all 944 districts in California. Not just its teachers, but Orchard’s administrators deserve apples.

All the other 30 districts’ balance sheets are in the red, some seriously so. One is Cupertino Union, whose district boundaries include Apple Inc., the world’s second most valuable corporation. It is strange that the area in America with the most concentrated wealth has school districts in fiscal distress.

The scorecard is provided in my recent report, “Financial Soundness Rankings for California’s Public School Districts, Colleges & Universities.” It was compiled after reviewing the financial soundness of all 944 California public school districts.

The “algorithm,” to use a digital term, for the rankings is derived from each district’s latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which you should be able to find on their respective websites. In each CAFR, look for the “Basic Financial Statements,” starting with the page titled “Statement of Net Position.”

Look at the top row for “Government Activities.” Then look down the column to where it says, first “Net Position,” then “Unrestricted.”

That’s the number you want: the Unrestricted Net Position, or UNP.

The number will either be positive or, with parentheses around it, negative.

I then divide the UNP by the district’s population, according to the latest numbers from the California Department of Education, to get a per-capita UNP. If negative, that’s the amount each person in the district is in hock for, whether or not your children attend school. Citizens should be concerned about the trajectory of these negative balances, commonly attributed to unfunded pension liabilities.

If the negative number runs too high too long, it will mean cuts in teachers, equipment, band and sports, and ultimately calls for parcel taxes and more statewide tax increases like Proposition 30. In the worst cases, takeover by the state is not out of the question.

Orchard Valley scored a UNP of $12 per capita, just into positive territory, and the 115th best of the 944 California districts.

After that, every other district ran a negative UNP. The second best in the county was Campbell Union High in San Jose, at ($169) per capita, 164th best in California. Next is Fremont Union High in Sunnyvale at ($244), 191st in the State; it includes Homestead High, the alma mater of Apple co-founders Steve Wozniak and the late Steve Jobs. Then comes East Side Union High in San Jose at ($298), 214th in the State.

The worst districts are in pretty bad shape. Saratoga Union High in Saratoga clocked at ($2,280) per capita, 934th of 944 California districts. Then came Palo Alto Unified at ($2,241), ranking 927th. Maybe the Hoover Institution can lend an assist? Then came Gilroy Unified at ($2,129), 911th on the state list.

The districts on the lower half of the list, suffering a per capita UNP of ($690) or lower, are most at risk. Of Santa Clara county’s 31 districts, 11 are in such bad shape. That’s about a third of the county’s districts.

Here’s the full list of the districts listed by per capita UNP:

1 Orchard Elementary $ 12
2 Campbell Union High ($169)
3 Fremont Union High ($244)
4 East Side Union High ($298)
5 Lakeside Joint ($314)
6 Cambrian ($345)
7 Santa Clara Unified ($441)
8 Sunnyvale ($472)
9 Moreland ($515)
10 Mountain View Whisman ($523)
11 Mountain View-Los Altos ($529)
12 Morgan Hill Unified ($548)
13 Campbell Union ($549)
14 Union Elementary ($552)
15 Los Gatos Union Elem ($569)
16 Berryessa Union Elem ($596)
17 Oak Grove Elementary ($598)
18 Luther Burbank ($638)
19 Franklin-McKinley Elem ($643)
20 Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint ($662)
21 San Jose Unified ($686)
22 Alum Rock Union Elem ($694)
23 Los Altos Elementary ($781)
24 Evergreen Elementary ($898)
25 Mount Pleasant Elem ($902)
26 Cupertino Union ($922)
27 Milpitas Unified ($942)
28 Loma Prieta Joint Union ($1,145)
29 Gilroy Unified ($2,129)
30 Palo Alto Unified ($2,421)
31 Saratoga Union Elem ($2,820)

This year, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board for the first time will require balance sheets to include unfunded retiree medical care liabilities, which will show even more school districts in critical condition. Expect to see the impact in the most recently released CAFRs for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2018.

With all that petabyte brainpower, Santa Clara County can do better. State and local leaders need to focus on a long-term strategic financial plan for each school district.

Sen. John M.W. Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, represents the 37th District in the California Senate


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