MOORLACH UPDATE — Fountain Valley Elementary — November 10, 2018

Let’s accentuate the positive and celebrate that the Fountain Valley Elementary School District has a positive unrestricted net position (UNP).

That was cause for the OC Register to find out why. Every school district has a different story. This district has a unique one and it is provided in the first piece below.

The key quote was made by the spokesman for the Orange County Department of Education, concerning the UNPs. “’They do . . . signal a need to develop long-range plans (regarding pensions), and this work is already taking place,’ [Ian] Hanigan said.” also provides its perspective on the fiscal circumstances and also gives Fountain Valley Elementary School District a positive mention.

Why do we care? Because the long-term liabilities creating these massive unrestricted net deficits will find that the students currently in these school districts won’t likely see these obligations paid down by the time their children, and maybe their grandchildren, are going to school unless massive budget changes are made now.

At least by one measure, Fountain Valley Elementary is Orange County’s lone district not in the red

When public-spending watchdog John Moorlach singled out Fountain Valley Elementary School District as the one and only in Orange County boasting a positive balance sheet, Superintendent Mark Johnson didn’t take the honor personally.

“It’s largely due to the decisions of people who came before me,” he modestly responded. “I’ve only been superintendent for four years.”

In a column that ran last month in the Orange County Register, California State Senator Moorlach wrote that out of the county’s 27 public school districts, only Fountain Valley Elementary is in the black.

According to his math, Moorlach said, Fountain Valley Elementary clocks $78 per capita – putting it in the top 10 percent financially of California’s 944 school districts.

“It’s all negative after that,” he said. Laguna Beach is Orange County’s “second best” at minus $223. Santa Ana Unified, at minus $1,805, places last.

A certified public account, Moorlach found fame after predicting the county’s bankruptcy in 1994. He served as Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector from 1995 to 2007.

Moorlach still enjoys crunching numbers.

“I like to open the hood and see what’s inside,” he said in an interview. “And what I’m seeing is massive debt.”

Over the past few months, Moorlach has been studying the financial soundness of not only school districts but also cities and colleges. For school districts, he scoured online annual financial reports. Then he divided each district’s “unrestricted net position” figure by its population.

And only Fountain Valley Elementary, a century-old district that oversees 10 elementary and middle schools, won bragging rights.

“We’re thrilled whenever we get positive press,” Johnson said. “But most districts do a great job managing their budgets thoughtfully. We have a few advantages. Because we’re small with fewer employees, we don’t have the same scope or scale of unfunded pension liabilities that other districts face.”

Serving about 6,300 students, the district has 680 employees.

By comparison, SAUSD has 48,000 students and 5,000 employees. Superintendent Stefanie Phillips said that in a larger picture, taking into account other factors than the measure used by Moorlach, the district is solvent and paying its bills.

“Are we about to go bankrupt? I don’t think so,” Phillips said with a laugh.

Moorlach’s figures “do not represent a balance due,” said Ian Hanigan, spokesman for Orange County Department of Education. Rather, they reflect a change in reporting requirements for public agencies, which, starting six years ago, must report all unfunded liabilities for pensions.

“They do, however, signal a need to develop long-range plans (regarding pensions), and this work is already taking place,” Hanigan said.

Every district in Orange County, including SAUSD, has a “positive certification” – meaning that each can meet its financial obligations for the current year and the two subsequent years, Hannigan said.

Fountain Valley Elementary benefited from “an extremely fortunate” windfall of $35 million from property sell-offs over the first decade of the 2000s, Johnson said.

“The community of Fountain Valley underwent a population boom in the ’70s and ’80s,” Johnson said. “That’s why so many schools opened in a short period of time. But the population has aged, and many people here are original homeowners without school-aged children. So we found ourselves with nine surplus schools.”

The district held on to one of those properties – “just in case we need it,” Johnson said – and sold the rest. “Then the board made the wise decision to put the proceeds from those sales into a conservative investment portfolio,” he said.

Over the years, proceeds from the investments have gone toward modernization of school sites, he said: “The principle remains invested, and each spring we have a conversation about our priorities and where we need to allocate money.”

Johnson declined to judge the financial prowess of other districts.

“We really do believe that school districts in general do an extraordinary job working for the futures of our children,” he said. “Larger districts manage huge budgets. For them, $35 million wouldn’t go as far as it does for us.”

However, it’s not all luck. The district could have frittered away the initial lump sum “on all sorts of things,” Johnson admitted.

“Instead,” he said, “we are committed to using it as an ongoing revenue stream.”




The Orange County lawmaker — who serves on the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Committee and its education subcommittee, and is often credited with predicting Orange County’s 1994 bankruptcy — sounded the alarm in a report last month analyzing financial statements from the state’s 944 K-12 school districts.

More than 85 percent of the districts reported deficits on their balance sheets, which he says indicates a coming “tipping point into insolvency and receivership.”

“The Moorlach Report is a flashing caution light to almost every public education budget in California. Unless things can change quickly, taxpayers can expect new levies, and post-secondary students and parents should fear higher tuition,” according to a press release.

Here are some key findings provided by Moorlach’s office:

• About two-thirds of California’s 944 public school districts run negative balance sheets. These statements show the most distressed districts could soon reach a tipping point into insolvency and receivership.

• Of the state’s large school districts, those in severe distress include Los Angeles Unified School District, with a negative $10.9 billion balance sheet; San Diego Unified at negative $1.5 billion; Fresno Unified at negative $849 million; and Santa Ana Unified at negative $485 million, the worst in Orange County.

• Of Orange County’s 27 public school districts, only one, Fountain Valley School District, is in positive financial territory.

• One bright spot is the 58 county boards of education. At least 51 of them have manageable per capita unrestricted net deficits of -$159 or less, with 14 in positive territory.

• Of the state’s 72 community college districts, only one enjoys a positive unrestricted net position (UNP).

• Cal State University’s balance sheet is negative $3.66 billion.

• The University of California’s balance sheet bleeds red ink all over the state, at negative $19.3 billion. Worse, that will double next year, to $38.6 billion, when retiree medical is included.

Read the full report here.


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MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — It’s Time to Vote — November 4, 2018

You get to vote now if you vote by absentee ballot or take advantage of an early voting facility provided by the OC Registrar of Voters. Or you can be a traditionalist and vote on Tuesday at your local polling place.

If you live in the OC and need help finding your polling place, go to the Registrar’s website at

For my complete all-inclusive voter guide, go to MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — All-Inclusive Voter Guide — October 24, 2018. It also has links to the focused voter guides that I’ve provided over the past few weeks.

The first piece below is a segment of an interview of the three candidates in one district in the city of Costa Mesa that can be found on the electronic version of the OC Register. It deals with the subject matter of my recent unfunded actuarial accrued liability percentage UPDATE (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Trick or Treat? — October 26, 2018). Also, if you go to my Senate website, you’ll find verification of the support claim of my SCA 10 that was made (see

The second piece is from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, which has a letter to the editor in support of a “Yes” vote on Proposition 6. A “Yes” vote repeals the gas tax foisted on Californians last year by two-thirds of the legislature, excluding yours truly.

California’s Department of Transportation needs serious managerial and fiscal reforms before vehicle owners provide it with more funding. The manipulation by the supporters of this gas and auto tax has been astounding. Starting projects and guilting you to continue them by your making the financial sacrifices that Sacramento is not willing to make itself. Again, it is nice to see that my office’s research on the efficiencies, or lack thereof, of Caltrans is being appreciated and referred to.

The third piece is an editorial submission in the Voice of OC on the OC District Attorney’s race, giving one side of the debate on this race. As I know both candidates, I am neutral and have not made an endorsement.

Election 2018: Costa Mesa City Council District 5 candidates share their priorities and thoughts on local issues


Question 4: Communities across the state are grappling with rising pension and other post-employment benefit costs. What do you think needs to be done to deal with this problem?

Allan Mansoor: We need to have greater restraint of pension benefits. That’s why I officially supported SCA 10 by Senator John Moorlach to require voter approval for any increases in retirement benefits. Locally, I voted to authorize prepayments from Costa Mesa to CalPERS when cash flow and cash balances permit. I made the motion to have city staff research using an Internal Revenue Code Section 115 Irrevocable Trust to pre-fund pensions and other accounts, such as OPEB.

Arlis Reynolds: Costa Mesa is in good financial health with an AA+ credit rating. We must establish a strategic plan that proactively allocates budget to pension obligations while maintaining high-quality public safety and services that benefit residents and attract visitors. Employees already contribute at a rate higher than legal mandates. We should optimize non-PERSable benefits, consider a Section 115 trust, invest in upgrades that reduce costs, support economic growth, and leverage credit ratings to optimize debt obligations. I will work with our Finance and Pension Advisory Committee and our new Finance Director to analyze various strategies and develop a long-term plan to address pension costs and overall financial health.

Rebecca Trahan: As a former Costa Mesa finance and pension committee member I had direct access to the city budget information, which included the money allotted for CalPERS. While on that committee I worked with a team to find solutions to this impending financial disaster and minimize the risk to our city — not just for current residents but also for those whom it most likely will have a devastating effect, our younger and future Costa Mesa residents. If I am elected to the city council representing district 5, I will continue to make addressing and resolving the pension debacle one of my top priorities. One of the ways I will address this is by re-examining every aspect of our budget and find areas where we may set aside more money for reserves to cover the pension payday when it will occur. In doing so, I will not just study it and do nothing as has happened with the council in the past — I will actually take action to draw down our liability and set us on a path for recovery and sustainability.

Vote yes on Prop. 6 to stop pols’ wasteful spending: Letters

Vote yes on Proposition 6 to repeal an unfair, regressive tax.

The cost of living is already too high in California, and the gas and car tax hikes hurts working families that already struggle to pay bills. On Nov. 1, 2017, Californians were hit with a new tax of 12.5 cents more per gallon of gasoline (and 20 cents more for diesel), also increasing auto registration fees as much as $175 per year. It gets worse!

The car and gas tax hikes are slated to increase every year, automatically. If this tax is not repealed, by 2021 Californians will be paying close to $2 more a gallon extra because of taxes and other government mandates. That’s $40 extra each time you fill up your car.

The tax also hits business owners who rely on transporting good, raising the cost of everything from apples to bread and everything in between, which is then passed on to working families.

This latest gas tax hike will not fix our roads because politicians will continue to fraudulently raid and divert gas tax funds.

State Sen. John Moorlach, a CPA, released a stunning report showing that only 20 percent of existing gas tax funds goes to roads, and Caltrans wastes half a billion dollars annually on extra staffing.

This latest gas tax increase contains no guarantee that even a penny will go to roads. For years, the Sacramento politicians have been raiding the existing gas tax funds to pay for their pet projects and general fund spending rather than fixing our terrible roads.

What little money that is spent on roads is largely wasted. We need to stop politicians’ wasteful spending first. Remember, a yes vote on Proposition 6 will repeal this unfair tax.

— Darryl Craft, Redlands


Mitchell: Tony Rackauckas – A Threat to Public Safety


Our Orange County District Attorney Office has become a house of horrors as revelations of misconduct, incompetence, and delayed justice pile up. DA Tony Rackauckas’s failures have not only undermined public confidence in the judicial system – they undermine public safety.

Though the 60 Minutes investigative report highlighted Raukauckas’s disregard for the law, a study by Harvard Law School disclosed that his office’s rate of overturned convictions due to prosecutorial error is among the highest in the state. These overturned criminal convictions are in addition to the botched handling of the homicide case against mass murderer Scott Evan DeKraai, who shot and killed seven in a beauty salon. The DA’s mishandling of the deadliest mass killings in County history meant that DeKraai received a life sentence rather than the death penalty. Also, there have been six recent murder cases that have resulted in dismissed or reduced charges due to errors by the DA’s office.

The Harvard Law School report is just the latest in a litany of findings confirming Rackauckas’s incompetence and misconduct. An Evaluation Committee appointed by Rackauckas found that the DA’s office was a “rudderless ship.” In 2017 a Grand Jury report confirmed the Evaluation Committee’s finding of a lack of leadership by the DA and additionally found the existence of a hostile work place and inadequate sexual harassment policies in the DA’s Office. In the face of the multitude of mishaps, State Senator John Moorlach summed it up best when he said “Tony should not be the D.A. anymore.”

Most recently his delayed response to victim’s reported complaints of rape and sexual assault against Dr. Robicheaux are inexplicable. The unsealed warrants show that the DA dragged its feet in prosecuting the multiple reports of criminal sexual assault.

Given the long and well-documented failures of Rackauckas, one would expect more outrage. The muted response is due to two unrelated factors that silence criticism. In 1995, then District Attorney Michael Capizzi authorized an early morning raid on the home of recently elected Assemblyman Scott Baugh. The outrage over the aggressive prosecutorial tactics on a Republican office holder led to Capizzi being forced from office. When Rackauckas ran for DA, he pledged that he would not criminalize political conduct. Rackauckas has resolutely stuck to his pledge, with the minor exception of the prosecution of Assessor Webster Guillory, which was, unsurprisingly, driven by a personal feud. The most conspicuous example of this pledge at work was Rackauckas’ refusal to investigate the allegations against then Sheriff Michael Carona. Rackauckas’ refusal to investigate Carona for crimes occurring right under his nose forced the Justice Department to take action, leading to Carona’s prosecution and conviction.

Even though Rackauckas bungles prosecutions, his refusal to investigate or prosecute political activity earns him the support, donations and silence of many political elites. To understand this arrangement is to understand both their reluctance to replace Rackauckas, and their reluctance to replace him with anyone who will actually enforce the law. Apparently, for many key Republicans and Democrats, the undermining of the integrity of the criminal justice system is but a small price to pay to avoid the application of the law to them.

In addition to Rackauckas’s unwillingness to investigate politicians, the fear of retaliation by Rackauckas silences would be critics as well. In the last year, four respected employees of the DA’s office have alleged that they were targets of retaliation by Rackauckas because they either reported prosecutorial misconduct or engaged in legitimate political activity. The most troubling claims are those of senior investigators Craig Hunter and Tom Conklin who both independently report that Rackauckas used his office to investigate political rivals and, in one instance, punished the investigator for failing to produce incriminating information on the political rival. Rackauckas’s practice of using his public office to investigate political adversaries is especially repugnant, as is his use of the office to retaliate.

The use of retaliation is a reflection of Rackauckas’s character and his abuse of the office. This lack of character is on full display in his re-election campaign. His chief defense for his failure in office is to use personal invective against his opponent. He avoids running on his record at all cost – his accomplishments are thin and scattered.

Rackauckas’s misconduct and incompetence impact every aspect of the DA’s office. The overturned convictions, the mishandled murder cases, delayed justice and the botched DeKraai case prove that public safety is at risk with Rackauckas in office. His refusal to investigate and prosecute political crimes imperil our community – no one is safe when politicians are above the law. We need a DA that puts public safety first and commits to hold politicians accountable. We need a new DA.

William R. Mitchell – former Chair of Orange County Common Cause, Co-Author and Sponsor of the Orange County Finance and Ethics Commission Ordinance, long standing good government advocate and OC business attorney.

MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Measure P — October 22, 2018

My 2016 effort with SB 1463 gets a mention in the OC Register piece below (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Epilogue — October 4, 2018).

My 2018 effort with SB 1463, a similar bill with the same number (intentionally), morphed into a strategy inclusion in SB 901 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Epilogue — October 4, 2018). Consequently, with a potential funding source for the city of Laguna Beach for undergrounding electric lines, which materialized after Measure P was put on the November ballot, it may not need to assess a larger sales tax at this time.

As the OC Register electronic piece had a photo of Councilman Bob Whalen, I’m including it. In the 2016 version of SB 1463, he was the mover and shaker as the bill’s sponsor and I was the author (a technical correction to the piece) when we presented the bill before various Legislative committees. We were able to get the bill to Gov. Brown’s desk without one vote in opposition, but he then vetoed it.

For my position on the 23 city and school district measures on Orange County’s various ballots, go to MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — OC Ballot Measures — October 17, 2018).

Laguna Beach voters to decide on 1% sales tax to pay for undergrounding of power lines along city’s key evacuation routes


Laguna Beach city councilman Bob Whalen is backdropped by power lines on Thalia Street and Temple Hills. He wants the city to bury the lines to prevent fires like the recent ones in Northern California.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

A plan by city officials to make the town safer in the event of a fire or natural disaster by burying power lines under major evacuation routes will go before voters on Nov. 6.

Measure P asks Laguna Beach residents to vote yes to authorize the city to enact a 1 percent sales tax for 25 years to fund emergency response services and fire safety measures, including moving overhead wires underground on Laguna Canyon Road and along evacuation routes. The tax is expected to raise approximately $5.6 million annually. A no vote opposes the sales tax.

A supermajority, or 66.67 percent, is required for the measure to pass.

At present, the city’s sales tax is 7.75 percent. If the measure is adopted, the sales tax rate would increase to 8.75 percent.

A 2016 study by Visit Laguna Beach shows that visitors paid more than $3.8 million in sales tax, representing 67 percent of the sales tax collected by the city that year. City officials estimate that 6.5 million visitors come to the city each year and would bear the brunt of the the added sales tax.

Measure P is endorsed by Laguna Beach police Chief Laura Farinella and Laguna Beach Fire Chief Mike Garcia. Opponents include Carolyn Cavecche, CEO/president of the Orange County Taxpayers Association and David Rubel, president of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and Civic Association.

In February, the City Council voted to move forward with efforts to bury the power lines following a community survey that showed support for the effort. The survey also showed almost all residents understand the threat of wildfire and the associated dangers of overhead power lines. The City Council, at that time, reviewed three options.

About 70 percent of survey respondents favored a one-cent increase in the city’s sales tax, 56 percent stated they would approve a bond measure and 58 percent preferred a general purpose sales tax.

City officials say it will cost at least $90 million to bury lines along Laguna Canyon Road, one of the city’s three entrance and exit points, and $45 million on 11 evacuation routes identified throughout the town, at a cost of $1,000 per foot. Citywide, there are 128,000 feet of overhead utilities, and about 21,000 feet are along the evacuation routes.

The city is already spending $2.5 million from existing city revenues to bury the utilities but that only covers a third of the cost, said City Councilman Bob Whalen, who in 2016 spearheaded efforts with state lawmakers to try to get the utility companies to step up with funding.

When the city had no success with the utilities, Whalen and others from the city, including then-Fire Chief Jeff LaTenderesse, took the issue to Sacramento. Senate Bill 1463 sponsored by Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, was later vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2016.

Efforts to bury the overhead lines and transponders have been a focus in recent years. Overhead utility lines have fallen during natural disasters and have blocked roadways, preventing emergency crews access to neighborhoods and hindering evacuations.

Downed poles caused fires in Laguna Beach in September 2007, February 2011, September 2012 and in July 2015. In 10 years, there have been more than 58 auto accidents that have downed utility wires and resulted in the closure of Laguna Canyon Road. The most recent occurred Oct. 16, when the road was closed for 17 hours.

Proponents and opponents of the tax have voiced their positions.

“We are reminded almost daily of public safety threats from utility lines and poles,” Whalen said. “Last Friday night (Oct. 12) Laguna Canyon Road was closed again, this time for almost six hours due to a car knocking over a power pole. I’m hearing every day from residents that they are voting yes on Measure P because they understand the risks that above ground power lines present.”

Jennifer Zeiter, a Laguna Beach attorney who heads up STOP (Stop Taxing Our Property), a grassroots group that opposes what it deems unnecessary taxation, calls the city’s effort to push Measure P “fearmongering.”

Random undergrounding won’t guarantee safety, she says, pointing to an already increased number of firefighters and improved technology to keep the town safe.

There are new larger water tanks, fuel modification, weed abatement, tree trimming, goats and defensible space requirements around all homes. The city also recently became the county’s first to issue its own wireless alerts and earlier this year activated the police department’s drone force that regularly monitors the city’s open space and wild land area for illegal warming fires and campsites.

“The city is running a false “fear and fire” campaign, using emotions to convince residents they will be trapped or doomed if we don’t underground utilities,” Zeiter said. “It’s disingenuous and its a money grab. The biggest fires in Laguna (in 1993 and most recently this past summer) have both been caused by humans (arson and negligence, respectively), not overhead utility poles.”

Zeiter counters the city’s claim of fire risks by saying that of the 394 fires over the past 10 years, only six were caused by utilities, and none of them major.

“That’s a 1.52 percent historical risk of fire by utilities, less than 2 percent,” she said. “It’s incredibly financially irresponsible to increase the sales tax by an effective 12.9 percent for the next 25 years and put our city in its greatest debt ever by issuing bonds in the hundreds of millions of dollars for a less than 2 percent historical risk.”

Instead of agreeing to the 1 percent sales tax increase, Zeiter and STOP say the city should pay as it goes and incentivize undergrounding in neighborhoods as has been done in the past.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Philosophically Consistent — October 14, 2018

Columnist Steven Greenhut provides a kind shout-out in today’s OC Register. I not only voted for SB 1421, I was a co-author and I spoke in support of it on the Senate Floor (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1421 and SB 828 — May 31, 2018).

Republican state Sen. John Moorlach agreed with proponents that the public needs better access to police records. He speculated journalists or investigators may have been able to identify the recently arrested former cop accused of being the Golden State Killer had they been allowed to view his personnel records.

The suspect in the high-profile murder case, Joseph James DeAngelo, was fired by the Auburn Police Department in the 1970s after being charged with shoplifting dog repellent and a hammer from a Sacramento hardware store. DeAngelo’s minor crimes occurred during a stretch of brutal rapes and murders in the Sacramento area.

“We need more disclosure, colleagues,” Moorlach said on the Senate floor. “This code of silence has gone on for too long.”

I defended my votes with the local media (see MOORLACH UPDATE — California School District Rankings, Group 2 — August 14, 2018).

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, co-authored the bill and believes the benefits outweigh the risks.

“I’m trying to assist to getting to the truth and getting to the truth faster,” Moorlach said. “I think there has been a credibility concern about whether we are being told the truth.”

The Sacramento Bee‘s Editorial Board echoed my concerns and supported SB 1421 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — California Cop Culture — June 19, 2018).

I was also a co-author of SB 1286 (Leno), SB 1421’s predecessor in 2016 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Other’s Senate Bills – 1286, 443, and 899 — April 18, 2016).

Serving on the Orange County Board of Supervisors and dealing with numerous lawsuits generated by members of the Sheriff’s Department, you develop a deeper understanding of what really goes on and what needs to be done to address it. It is nice to receive a public acknowledgment of my stance and my solo Republican Senate votes.


Greenhut: Civil liberties and

the police union spin game


SACRAMENTO – The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they turn even more slowly when it comes to achieving substantial legislative reform. With little fanfare and no statement, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that allows the public to learn details from investigations of police shootings, major use-of-force incidents and officers who may have falsified reports, planted evidence or committed a sexual assault. This is a no-brainer in a free society, but it took civil libertarians 12 years of work to overcome the scare tactics of police unions, GOP legislators and other members of the Secrecy Lobby.

I’ve had plenty of issues with Brown, but his signing of Senate Bill 1421 — and his same-day signing of Assembly Bill 748, which requires police departments to release body camera footage of most use-of-force incidence within 45 days — certainly redeems his governorship in my eyes. The new laws bring us closer to the state of affairs that existed before 2006, when a dreadful California Supreme Court decision slammed the door on openness and police accountability. Since then, police agencies have had free reign to protect their worst officers.

The 2006 case, Copley Press v. County of San Diego, centered on the San Diego Union-Tribune’s effort to gain access to a disciplinary hearing involving a deputy sheriff who was appealing his termination from the force. The court found that the public has no right to learn about the goings-on in a civilian-service commission or virtually anything about misbehaving officials. It rejected the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that the public has a right to access government information and quoted from a shockingly Orwellian 1978 ruling: “There is no constitutional right to have access to particular government information, or to require openness from the bureaucracy.”

The results were predictable. Unions demanded — and gained — secrecy. Cities restricted their civilian-review boards. The public couldn’t get access to information even after the most egregious-seeming incidents. Progressive California became the most regressive state when it comes to holding accountable its most powerful officials. Things have improved slightly only because of the ubiquitous nature of cellphone cameras, but police use-of-force incidents have become such flashpoints because the public can’t trust the police departments when they can so easily hide information.

As someone who has covered some of these use-of-force incidents, I’ve learned that agencies rarely release videos or internal reports unless that information bolsters the story of the officer. Otherwise, it’s none of our business. After an officer shoots to death an unarmed person, the police tell us not to jump to conclusions — but to wait until the report is done. But after the report is done, we don’t usually get to read it. As the ACLU of Northern California explained, Copley “has effectively shut off all avenues for the public to learn about misconduct involving individual police officers.”

Since then, advocates for government openness have tried to reform Copley, but to no avail until this year. I covered an appalling Capitol hearing for the Orange County Register in 2007 in one of the earliest iterations of a Copley reform. The committee chairman saved the front seats in the room, usually reserved for legislators, for the bill’s opponents. The fix was in.

As I wrote, then-Assemblyman Jose Solorio, now a Santa Ana councilman, “gave a bizarre, rambling speech complaining about the rapper Ice-T, about rap-music lyrics in general, worrying about the effect of open government on police recruitment efforts and claiming that police already are vilified by the public. … He then offered Sen. (Gloria) Romero the chance to withdraw her bill. She defiantly refused … None of the committee members had the guts to offer a motion to vote on the bill.” The audience was thrilled at this display of power politics.

That alliance of union-backed Democrats and law-and-order Republicans has put the kibosh on such reforms in the ensuing years. I’ve been particularly steamed at the Republicans, given their constant rhetoric about limited government and constitutional rights. As I wrote for again in 2016, after yet another limited attempt to open post-Copley public records failed, “Politicians from the party of Reagan and Lincoln should instinctively know the dangers of giving government officials unaccountable power. That so few of them do is a reminder that, when many of them talk about liberty, all the rest of us should hear is ‘blah, blah, blah.’”

The final vote on SB1421 had only one Republican “aye” in the Senate and only four GOP “ayes” in the Assembly. The final A.B. 748 vote had no Republican “ayes” in the Assembly and only one in the Senate — from the philosophically consistent John Moorlach of Costa Mesa, who voted yes on both measures. It’s taken a dozen years to at least partially fix an injustice perpetrated by the court, but justice long delayed is better than justice permanently denied. I guess that makes this victory sweeter than ever.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He was a Register editorial writer from 1998-2009. Write to him atsgreenhut.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 448 and SB 1363 — September 12, 2018

Now that the 2018 Session has concluded, the Governor has until the end of September to sign or veto the bills the Legislature sent to his desk in the final two weeks of August. (I hope to provide you with the annual list of the 20 bills Gov. Brown should veto soon.)

I’m happy to say that two bills that I was associated with were signed yesterday. The Governor issues a press releases every day on his bill signing and both bills are mentioned in yesterday’s report. The OC Register covers one of them, AB 448, where I was a co-author and the Floor Manager (Jockey) who presented it on the Senate Floor for approval, in the first piece below (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Senate Approval of AB 448 — August 9, 2018).

For fun on the singular opposition, see MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 448 — July 8, 2018 and my response at MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness JPA Solution — July 11, 2018.

The press release is provided in the second piece below in the Imperial Valley News. It includes the approval of SB 1363 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Quiet Bills, And Not So Quiet — May 3, 2018 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Right to Peaceably Assemble — April 13, 2018).

Form 540, the state equivalent of IRS Form 1040, the traditional income tax return, has a page where filers can designate a portion of their refund towards a specified nonprofit or cause. It’s known as a voluntary contribution and can be deducted on the subsequent year’s return as an itemized deduction (if one’s deductions exceed what is known as the standard deduction).

The good news is that this voluntary contribution gives the causes some nice PR when individuals are preparing their tax returns. Unfortunately, most individuals use professional tax preparers and never even see that they have this option. Most tax preparers do not even inform their clients of this opportunity. Consequently, I initiated a bill to modify this section on the Form 540 earlier this year to make it more manageable and marketed.

After working with the Chair of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, we decided that we would make 2018 the last year to add voluntary contributions and use 2019 to make the reforms. So, stay tuned for legislation that will assist taxpayers in knowing that worthy causes are included in their tax return preparation process.

As for SB 1363, it was a wonderful collaboration with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to provide a funding source for police officer training for Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT). For more information, see SB 1363 – NAMI California and

Governor signs bill that allows creation of Orange County trust to help homeless people

Theresa Walker

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday, Sept. 11, signed into law a bill that will allow Orange County and its 34 cities to form the Orange County Housing Finance Trust and jointly compete for state and federal funds to help house the local homeless population.

The legislation, known as Assembly Bill 448, had enjoyed bipartisan support from Orange County’s delegation in the state legislature, among county and city elected officials, and in the private sector. County supervisor Michelle Steel was a notable exception.

AB 448 was introduced by Assemblyman Tom Daly (D-Anaheim) and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), with Republican co-authors in the state Senate: Pat Bates of Laguna Niguel, John Moorlach of Costa Mesa and Janet Nguyen of Garden Grove.

“This legislation is a product of teamwork, and refreshing cooperation in Orange County,” Quirk-Silva said.

The bill, which goes into effect Jan. 1, does not grant the joint powers authority to be formed any land-use powers, the means to own or operate housing, or the ability to dictate to local jurisdictions where to build. It does call for an annual audit.

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Governor Brown Issues Legislative Update

Sacramento, California – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that he has signed the following bills:

  • AB 448 by Assemblymember Tom Daly (D-Anaheim) – Joint powers authorities: Orange County Housing Finance Trust.
  • AB 700 by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) – Outdoor advertising displays: arenas.
  • AB 1790 by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) – Valley Fever Education, Early Diagnosis, and Treatment Act.
  • AB 2036 by Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson) – State Capitol: Mervyn M. Dymally bust.
  • AB 2097 by Assemblymember Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita) – Carpet recycling: annual reports.
  • AB 2175 by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) – Vessels: removal.
  • AB 2293 by Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-Grand Terrace) – Emergency medical services: report.
  • AB 2540 by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) – State facilities and public buildings: vote centers and polling places.
  • AB 2620 by Assemblymember Philip Ting (D-San Francisco) – Rental passenger vehicle transactions.
  • AB 2745 by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) – State parks: merchandise sales.
  • AB 2894 by Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) – Postsecondary education: students called to active military duty during an academic term.
  • AB 3067 by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Arcadia) – Internet: marketing: minors: cannabis.
  • AB 3098 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) – Residential care facilities for the elderly: emergency and disaster plans.
  • AB 3257 by the Committee on Natural Resources – Natural resources.
  • SB 954 by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) – Mediation: confidentiality: disclosure.
  • SB 963 by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) – Water replenishment districts.
  • SB 1046 by Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside) – Insurance: long-term care.
  • SB 1076 by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) – Emergency preparedness: electrical utilities: electromagnetic pulse attacks and geomagnetic storm events.
  • SB 1113 by Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) – Mental health in the workplace: voluntary standards.
  • SB 1133 by Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) – Water quality control plans: funding.
  • SB 1201 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) – Contracts: consumer protection: residential mortgage lending.
  • SB 1202 by Senator Jeff Stone (R-Temecula) – Land use: development fees.
  • SB 1246 by Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado Hills) – Property tax: claims for refund.
  • SB 1363 by Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) – Personal income taxes: voluntary contributions: National Alliance on Mental Illness California Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund.
  • SB 1383 by Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) – Teacher credentialing: Committee of Credentials: membership.
  • SB 1410 by Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) – Public utilities: inspection and audit of books and records.
  • SB 1503 by the Committee on Governmental Organization – Alcoholic beverages: licensees.

The Governor also announced that he has vetoed the following bills:

  • AB 1715 by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) – International trade and investment offices.
  • AB 2790 by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) – Veterans: Internal Audits for Veterans Affairs.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness JPA Solution — July 11, 2018

I was interviewed recently by Rick Reiff of Inside OC, and the topic of homelessness came up (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Inside OC, Part 2 — May 7, 2018). We had such an engaging discussion, that he made two shows out of our session.

Because I’ve been working on this issue for years, I did a little search of my blog. Here are entries from just the last six years that included the topic in the title, going from most recent to oldest:

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Solutions — April 9, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Press Release — March 29, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Communication — March 28, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Plan? — March 27, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Pace — March 24, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Funding OC’s Homelessness — March 18, 2018

* MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 OC Homeless Deaths — December 20, 2017

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day — December 4, 2017

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Civic Center Homeless — September 7, 2016

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Tackling Homelessness — August 13, 2016

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter at Depot — November 21, 2014

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Santa Ana Homeless Shelter — August 21, 2014

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter, et al — July 16, 2014

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Review — December 19, 2013

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter — October 18, 2013

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness — February 14, 2013

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Helping Homeless — February 21, 2012

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Hob-Knobbing with Homeless — February 14, 2012

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Ending Homelessness — January 27, 2012

And I could provide plenty more on the subject that did not include the word “homeless” or “homelessness” in the title.

You would think that I was either obsessed or passionate about the subject. And, I do not mean to bore you with this difficult matter. But, I do focus on more than pension reform and unrestricted net deficits.

This includes working with an incredible coalition of organizations to address this concern (see MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 448 — July 8, 2018). Something is happening in Orange County, and it’s positive. So, when someone of stature casts aspersions, it calls for a response.

My rebuttal is provided in the OC Register with the piece below.


AB 448 would help solve Orange County’s homelessness crisis


People living on the Union Pacific Railroad easement along I-5 between Brookhurst Street and Euclid Street clear their belongings in Anaheim on Tuesday, Mar 13, 2018. The railroad is clearing the track away of homeless encampments. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Living in Orange County, I see the same things you do: homeless people on street corners, in front of stores, even on the front lawns of our homes.

That’s why I have been working with other Orange County civic, business and charity leaders to deal with this crisis in ways that protect our citizens while humanely housing the destitute.

I’m co-authoring Assembly Bill 448, a bipartisan effort to give all of Orange County’s 34 cities, and the county, a seat at the table to coordinate spending of existing and future dedicated homeless funds. The housing trust would unite our cities in one coordinated voice to better obtain Orange County’s fair share of taxes.

When we cooperate and focus, Orange County’s leaders have a legacy of accomplishing great things, such as:

• The Orange County Transportation Authority, representing equally all five supervisorial districts.

• The Mosquito and Vector Control District, on whose board I served for six years, directed by the 34 cities and the county.

• The Transportation Corridor Agencies and the Orange County Fire Authority, directed by all impacted cities

There are forces that are encouraging more resolve in this critical area. One major driver is a federal judge. Consequently, this is the time for a leadership opportunity.

The Orange County Grand Jury recently released a report, titled “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way: Housing Orange County’s Chronically Homeless.” Its conclusion: “Nothing can be accomplished without leadership and collaboration between the County and cities.”

AB 448 takes a conservative approach to homelessness:

• No new taxes.

• Private sector involvement, especially from local mission-oriented charities.

• Efficiencies in obtaining funding from Sacramento.

Done properly, the homeless community will be assisted. Best of all, it will free our parks and public places — and our front lawns — for you and your families, by helping the homeless get treatment for their mental and other illnesses.

I’m hoping this will be a model for other counties to follow.

For all these reasons I was dismayed to read Supervisor Michelle Steel’s recent column, “Orange County Housing Finance Trust unnecessary at best.” She claims AB 448 “will take away local control, and grow the size of government, to build large scale homeless and subsidized government housing in your backyard with your hard-earned dollars.”

This is not leadership. This is classic NIMBYism and fearmongering.

She insists, “[T]his proposal increases the cost of market rate housing by designating land that could build more homes for government subsidized ‘affordable housing’. AB448 won’t make housing more affordable, it will create new government debt and a greater financial burden for the residents forced to pay for it.”

Sadly, these assertions are false. In fact, the trust would claim state money our taxpayers already pay, not add even one Lincoln penny to existing levies. As to the market price of homes, it’s Economics 101: Increase the supply and the price will go down. The demand is there from the homeless; the question is whether we meet the supply.

State laws passed last year in the 2017 Housing Package, such as Senate Bill 35, mandate more local housing construction. And federal Judge David O. Carter continues reviewing county homeless policies. If the housing trust is not enacted, the county and our 34 cities could lose all control over solutions.

Ironically, the good Supervisor claims the bill “doesn’t actually do anything.”

Steel’s only constructive suggestions are to “overhaul” the California Environmental Quality Act and “our current tax system … . Even Gov. Brown has recognized this problem, but has only proposed streamlining for politically favored projects,” meaning sports stadiums.

I long have supported and continue to support reforming CEQA. But Brown soon will be gone. Tellingly, one of his re-election planks was CEQA reform — way back for his re-election in 1978, 40 years ago. We can’t wait another 40 years.

As to tax reform, right now the formidable task is repealing the recent new taxes, such as the gas tax.

I urge Orange County’s charitable citizens to back AB448, which was introduced by Democratic Assemblymembers Tom Daly of Anaheim and Sharon Quirk-Silva of Fullerton; and is also co-authored by Republican state Sens. Pat Bates of Laguna Niguel and Janet Nguyen of Garden Grove. Compassion dictates that we pursue a vision for the entire county and act as one community for all of our residents.

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

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MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 448 — July 8, 2018

The editorial submissions continue to come. This time one, provided in the OC Register below, comes from my successor as Orange County Supervisor for the Second District, Michelle Steel. It reminds me of a famous phrase one of our predecessors, Harriett Wieder, used to say frequently, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

I can still remember what a major initiative it was, when the Orange County Transportation Authority closed its Civic Center bus depot, to allow the homeless to use the restroom facilities. This was, sadly, a major undertaking.

I also remember serving as the inaugural Chair of the Orange County Commission to End Homelessness and what a major endeavor it was to build a coalition between the nonprofit providers, the County and the business community.

Working on improving the lot of the homeless is not an easy task. And, as Judge David O. Carter may be realizing, it is one that cannot be done overnight.

Nor is it a simple task, as the different concerns of the nonchronic and chronic homeless populations requires complex and varied remedies. No one has the magic formula.

But, you will be happy to know there is a core group that is diligently working to forge a solution. I have been working with the Association of California Cities – Orange County, the Orange County Hospital Association, numerous business leaders, the United Way-Orange County, and members of the California Legislative delegation. We are working together with a plan and have a vision to address the homelessness crisis in our county.

The Board of Supervisors, maybe not so much, if my honorable successor is to be believed.

In yesterday’s UPDATE, I mentioned that on occasion I will serve as a coauthor of bills written by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. AB 448 is one of this year’s bills where I am working on a solution that is backed by this coalition of organizations to get something accomplished (see It is leading. Others should either follow or get out of the way.

Some clarifications, if I may. AB 448 is giving all of Orange County’s 34 cities a seat at the table to coordinate how existing funds for the homeless are spent.

The proposed housing trust will allow these cities to approach Sacramento as one coordinated voice to better obtain Orange County’s fair share of tax revenues. Remember, Orange County is the second highest producer of personal income taxes in California, behind Los Angeles County, which has more than triple our population.

Orange County has shown leadership in unifying in other critical areas, like the Orange County Transportation Authority, where all five Supervisorial Districts are represented equally. There are the Transportation Corridor Agencies, where impacted cities are represented. The Orange County Fire Authority comes to mind. And the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District, on whose board I served for some six years, has a board of 35 members, representing the 34 cities and the Board of Supervisors.

When we cooperate and focus on a project, Orange County leaders can accomplish great things. We have a proven track record.

The Orange County Grand Jury just released a report on Orange County’s homelessness situation last month, and it encourages a housing trust model (see It’s title? “Where There is a Will, There is a Way — Housing Orange County’s Chronically Homeless.”

In the report’s conclusion it states the following:

While these are vital issues that need to be addressed, nothing can be accomplished without leadership and collaboration between the County and cities. During the investigation, the Grand Jury heard both sides level claims of “lack of political will.” However, while political will – or the lack thereof – is frequently and glibly used as an accusation, its explicit meaning is vague, making efforts at addressing the real, underlying problems difficult.

Even the 2017-2018 Grand Jury gets it.

The Orange County Housing Finance Trust, through AB 448, takes a conservative approach to the issue of homelessness. There are no new taxes. It has private sector involvement. It provides efficiencies in obtaining funding from Sacramento. And, it should free up our parks and public places for you and your families by assisting the homeless in obtaining the proper treatment to their conditions. I’m hoping this will be a model for other counties to follow.

Some of us are putting our shoulders to the plow. If Supervisor Wieder were here, she would probably say, “Either lead, follow, or get out of the way. But, for crying out loud, do something.” Together, we can.


Orange County Housing Finance Trust unnecessary at best


While many local leaders have stepped forward with the good intention of solving the homeless issue, some of the proposed solutions come with heavy consequences that would only make the problem worse. Your local state representatives have proposed legislation that will take away local control, and grow the size of government, to build large scale homeless and subsidized government housing in your backyard with your hard-earned dollars.

Assembly Bill 448, introduced by Assemblymembers Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, and Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, and co-authored by State Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, and Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, authorizes the creation of the Orange County Housing Finance Trust, a new government agency that would fund housing for the homeless and low income in Orange County.

The governing members of this Orange County Housing Finance Trust would not only be made up of local city and county officials, but community “stakeholders” such as the developers working with local representatives on this bill who would benefit financially from such housing projects. The funding for such a large financial project would be taken from tax revenues.

Worst of all, AB 448 doesn’t actually do anything. Local governments already have the authority to make a Joint Powers Authority that would act as a housing trust, and to accept both private and public funds, without this additional new legislation. AB 448 is a public relations ploy that does nothing of substance except remove local control in favor of allowing those in Sacramento to call the shots.

Besides removing local control, this proposal increases the cost of market rate housing by designating land that could build more homes for government subsidized “affordable housing.” AB448 won’t make housing more affordable, it will create new government debt and a greater financial burden for the residents forced to pay for it.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 29 percent of Orange County Households are borderline poor — just over the poverty threshold. And 87 percent of residents are facing financial risk by purchasing our high-priced homes according to a survey by the National Association of Homebuilders. This bill will financially punish those individuals for trying to create a nice life for themselves by prioritizing housing in their budget.

Hardworking Orange County residents will now be forced to foot the bill for a new government agency in addition to already spending nearly $1 billion dollars on current government agencies designed to service low income and homeless individuals — including over $164 million on permanent and supportive housing alone.

We should be looking at both lasting and effective reforms that would benefit all of our residents instead of forcing one population to pay for another. We need to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act and our current tax system to make it easier for individuals to find truly affordable housing.

Through the CEQA process, projects ranging from housing, parks, and even traffic reduction, are faced with paying thousands of dollars on complex studies, hearings, and then burdened with litigation costs that kill most projects before they’ve even begun. Even Gov. Brown has recognized this problem, but has only proposed streamlining for politically favored projects.

Assembly Bill 448 will not work to resolve the greater problem of the ridiculous costs of building a house in this state. In fact, it won’t do anything but approve an authority local governments already possess, and give control of the process to Sacramento. I would encourage all of our local leaders to work to effect real change in creating affordable housing for Californians instead of choosing a “solution” that would only grow government and saddle us with another financial burden we can’t afford.

Michelle Steel is a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Watching Our Votes — July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July! Wishing you a wonderful day with family and friends.

You would think Legislative leaders should have finished their calendar last week and given us this week off. Instead, everyone traveled home yesterday and they are returning on Thursday to reconvene starting at noon (ordinarily we start at 9 a.m.). Why? I’ll spare you the reasons, as there isn’t one good one.

The rare, but good news is this: someone is actually watching Senate and Assembly Floor and Committee debates and taking note of our votes.

The OC Register provides an online editorial supportive of the positions only eight Legislators took for a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that Gov. Brown recently presented to us for a vote.

Only one-fifteenth of us were brave enough to say “no” to protect the overall fiscal integrity of the state of California. That’s just how powerful the public employee unions are. At least someone was watching!

Debt is bondage. And, unfunded pension liabilities are a debt (not an estimate, as three Appellate Court Judges ruled — but, I digress). Therefore, Californians are slaves to the state’s pension systems.

The Santa Monica Mirror looks at another recent Senate Governance and Finance Committee vote. It is also watching. The column is a little caustic about Prop 13, but at least a glaring inequity was recognized. But, the unions need to position themselves to raise your taxes statewide. They know increased revenues will be needed in the future to fund the ever growing pension plan contribution expenditures.

It really is that crass. Let me give you a recent example. SEIU 1000, the union representing state employees, convinced Gov. Brown to persuade soda pop producers to agree to discontinue plans to fund a ballot measure requiring a two-thirds voter approval for increasing local taxes.

How? By having the Legislature pass a law last week that would prohibit local municipalities from raising sales taxes on groceries, with certain exceptions for cannabis. Why? Even though local municipalities are choking on their pension plan cost increases, the state unit of SEIU wants the ability to increase taxes to be statewide, once again, to save its pensions, not those at the local level. The joys of political power. Yes, one large public employee union just tossed all of the smaller ones around this state, more than 600 of them, under the proverbial bus.

The state is not run by elected representatives, it is run by the public employee unions. That is why the Janus decision is such a big deal

(see MOORLACH UPDATE — Happy Independence Day Week — July 1, 2018). Right now we are slaves to debt and the public employee unions that created it.

Well, for this brief 24-hour period, enjoy the celebration of freedom from the bondage of English rule. Then go back to work on Thursday and keep those income tax withholdings and sales taxes coming Sacramento’s way.

Happy Independence Day!


Democrats and Republicans

unite in Sacramento to give

prison guards a large raise

By letters |
Orange County Register

California’s prison guards are set to get a five percent pay raise this year.


Because California state government is led by unprincipled politicians who gladly throw around taxpayer money to appease public sector unions.

That’s why.

The five percent raise was so unjustified the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office had to speak up.

The LAO wrote in May that there’s “weak justification for [the] large pay increase,” that there’s “no evidence of recruitment and retention issues,” that “pay raises since 2001-02 have exceeded inflation,” that the “pay increase will likely be extended to managers and supervisors” and that the “pay increase could increase [the] state pension contribution rate.”

But none that mattered to the overwhelming majority of state legislators, who approved the one-year contract with the raise on June 14.

In the Senate, only Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, spoke up against the raise on the Senate floor. “If in this budget we are not going to make a concerted effort to reduce our unfunded liabilities, we should be very cautious about giving pay raises,” he said.

Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, usually one of the wiser state senators on criminal justice issues, nevertheless urged a vote in favor.

It passed 30-3, with only Moorlach, Democrat Steve Glazer and Republican Mike Morrell voting against.

The Assembly was no better. Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear Lake, was the only one to speak against it on the floor. “California already has the highest cost per incarcerated prisoner of any state in the country, this MOU will exacerbate that situation,” he said.

Then Democrat Phil Ting, wearing a bow tie, said something about how hard working the prison guards are and how other unions have gotten similar raises too and asked for a vote in support.

It passed 73-5, with Obernolte, joined by fellow Republicans Travis Allen, Catharine Baker, Kevin Kiley and Melissa Melendez, voting against the contract.

The lopsided outcome, in defiance of fiscal responsibility and the many reasons to vote against it, and the bipartisan approval for the deal is hardly a surprise.

Most Republican politicians will talk a good game about fiscal responsibility, but they have their own favored special interests, with “public safety” unions among their favorite, and they rarely flinch at Big Government in the form of grotesque prison spending.

The Democratic establishment, meanwhile, is all too willing to abandon principle to appease its primary constituent: public sector unions. After all, they’ll gladly throw disabled workers under the bus if it means pleasing the SEIU, as they just did. And they’ll throw unjustifiable pay raises to the California prison guards with little objection.

It’s no wonder California’s prison spending continues to rise even as the number of prisoners falls, and that as a result per-prisoner spending is now around $80,000 a year. It’s also no wonder it took a United States Supreme Court case, and multiple voter initiatives, for California to make any meaningful progress on criminal justice reform. California needed federal court orders and voter initiatives to do things right.

With Republican politicians who abandon fiscal responsibility and all their talk about respect for the individual when it comes to locking people up, and Democrats who mostly just care about keeping public sector unions happy, it’s no wonder California’s the mess it is.

It unfortunately appears the LAO, Moorlach, Glazer, Morrell, Baker, Kiley, Melendez, Obernolte and Travis Allen were the only ones who had their heads on straight when looking at the prison guard contract. All the others just revealed what they’re all about, and shouldn’t be taken seriously when it comes to budget matters or prison spending.

Sal Rodriguez is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. He may be reached at salrodriguez



If it’s ever to be fixed, only a ballot proposition can repair the largest and most obvious inequity caused by Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 tax-cutting initiative that causes next-door neighbors in identical homes to pay vastly different sums for property taxes.

But the other big problem area of the tax-cutting measure originally sponsored by the late political gadflies Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann could be solved by a simple vote of the Legislature. That inequity is a loophole allowing some commercial and industrial properties to escape the tax increases that normally come when a building or lot changes hands. Sadly, this loophole will remain in place at least another year, after legislative Democrats in late spring killed a Republican bill to close it.

The essence of the loophole: As with homes and other residential properties, business property is taxed at 1 percent of the latest sales price. But an exception was written into the Prop. 13 rules by legislators a year after Jarvis-Gann passed handily. This one allows the tax bill to remain static after sale unless at least one new owner has more than a one-half interest in the property.

Perhaps the most egregious case of this loophole costing taxpayers money came when former basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson and a group of big-money partners bought the Los Angeles Dodgers from parking lot magnate Frank McCourt and his now ex-wife Jamie.

As part of the $2 billion deal, McCourt retained a half-interest in the sprawling parking lots surrounding Dodger Stadium, even though the new owners control parking prices and get all the revenue. That essentially made Johnson & Co. the real owners, but kept the tax bill on the lots (with a book value of $300 million at the time of sale) from more than quadrupling. This has let the new owners save about $2 million yearly starting in 2012.

Theoretically, the same sort of arrangement could have been worked out for the far more valuable Dodger Stadium itself, but that would have led to reams of negative publicity the Dodgers didn’t want.

Other well-publicized examples of the loophole saving big bucks for wealthy new owners came when a Central Valley vineyard changed hands and when a landmark Santa Monica hotel was sold to a new group, later becoming part of the ultra-luxurious Fairmont group.

Almost yearly during this decade, some state legislators have tried to get rid of this egregious injustice. Back when former Democratic state Sen. Martha Escutia of East Los Angeles first proposed closing the loophole, the state’s non-partisan legislative analyst estimated a change could produce between $3 billion and $8 billion in additional property tax revenue.

The latest effort, carried by state Senate Minority Leader Patricia Bates, a Republican from Laguna Niguel, failed on a 3-2 vote of the Senate’s Governance and Finance Committee, with two ostensibly liberal Los Angeles County Democrats – Ed Hernandez and Robert Herzberg – abstaining. Both votes for the Prop. 13 reform came from Orange County Republicans, John Moorlach and Janet Nguyen, while Democrats Jim Beall of San Jose, Richard Lara of East Los Angeles and Mike McGuire of Ukiah all voted no.

The vote was odd because it’s usually Democrats striving to bring more fairness to Prop. 13, while Republicans fight to keep it static.

But over time, the conservative GOP establishment has come to see closing the 50-per-cent-ownership loophole as simple fairness. Some Republicans saw the Democratic no votes as a political ploy aimed at keeping things unfair in order to make passage of a “split roll” initiative in 2020 easier.

That proposal would see business properties taxed at a higher rate than homes, even if no sale is involved.

Said Jon Coupal, head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., which usually fights to maintain Prop. 13’s rules, “Killing this bill shows that progressive tax and spend interests don’t want to fix how Prop. 13 is interpreted, but they’d rather…advocate for a larger split roll tax increase. They would rather play politics.”

The bottom line is that the vote likely means this problem won’t be fixed for at least two more years, as there will be no reason for a change in Democratic tactics next year. Which means this obvious inequity will remain a part of California life and local governments will keep losing out on significant funds they could use for schools and many other causes.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Janus Decision — June 28, 2018

The favorable Janus decision by the United States Supreme Court was announced yesterday. The Daily Journal covers it in the first piece below.

This is very big news. Especially in a state that is run by public employee union officials. One can only hope that it is a game changer and that it provides some appropriate fiscal relief in Sacramento.

Let me expand on this piece. As a result of public employee unions using a significant portion of the dues they collect to campaign for candidates and elected officials who decide on their salary and benefit packages, which is the largest conflict of interest in this industry, most municipalities find themselves in fiscal distress. My recently released Unrestricted Net Deficit Per Capita listings illustrate this tragic conundrum.

The significant amount of campaign “slush fund” cash allows unions as leverage and is extremely intimidating when negotiating with insecure elected officials at the bargaining table . Hopefully, future negotiations will be based on the merits of the proposals and not on the inference that another candidate will be backed to run against those currently in office. And, if the taxpayers are fortunate, maybe some of the fiscal benefit overreaches by the public employee unions of the past can be reversed in order to protect the financial sustainability of their public employers.

The Sacramento Bee provides an electronic piece on the reactions to the ruling in the second piece below. Here is the attachment to my noted Tweet:

The third piece is an electronic editorial in the Daily Breeze by the OC Register. It gives a shout out to my SB 247 (see and MOORLACH UPDATE — Earning a Living — November 30, 2017) .

The fourth piece recognizes my Small Business of the Year recipient for 2018 in the Orange County Breeze. Bruce and Lisa Hughes were two of my Becker CPA Review Course instructors forty years ago. Both have also served with distinction on Orange County committees focused on the County’s fiscal well-being. Congratulations to a couple that have invested heavily over the decades in service to the County of Orange.

Supreme Court decision draws ire of local unions

Workers decry justices’ vote as barrier to benefits, quality work

  • By Anna Schuessler Daily Journal staff

In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision cutting off unions’ ability to collect fees from non-union workers delivered Wednesday, those standing behind local labor unions expressed a mixture of disappointment and renewed energy around their efforts.

By striking down the use of mandatory fees paid by nonmembers of public worker unions toward collective bargaining activities, the court’s ruling marked an end to the collection of agency fees, or fair share fees, used toward the expenses of contract negotiations and grievance handling by public sector unions. Allowed in 22 states including California, the fees are less than union dues and may not be used for political activities. Unions are required to represent all workers whether or not they are union members.

The court’s 5-4 vote in an Illinois case in which a state worker, child support specialist Mark Janus, challenged the agency fees, split the nine justices, five of whom joined Justice Samuel Alito in asserting the fees violate the constitutional First Amendment right of free speech.

“We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern,” wrote Alito in his opinion.

Their decision sparked reactions from workers representing a wide array of unions as well as those shaping policy across the state, some of whom were buoyed and others who were discouraged by the news.

Representing the San Mateo Labor Council as its executive secretary-treasurer, Julie Lind Rupp condemned the decision as counter to the labor movement’s belief that all work has dignity, deserves respect and all workers deserve to be treated accordingly.

“In California, unions have partnered with progressive elected leaders to raise wages and reduce pay inequity, ensure all workers have paid sick days, enact paid family leave, strengthen workplace safety and so much more,” she said in a prepared statement. “Today, we commit to not only sustaining the labor movement, but building and strengthening it so more working people can negotiate a fair deal in return for their hard work.”

But for State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, the decision was not only a win for those workers who have had a portion of their paychecks go to causes they may not support, it was also a source of hope that the hold unions have had on their negotiators might loosen.

Moorlach looked to the change to limit unions from coming close to threatening elected officials at the negotiating table and unwind some of the effects of the “slush fund” they have amassed in Sacramento, which he said has been used to tie up a considerable number of taxpayer dollars.

“That is just unfair and inappropriate, so this should help the unions step up their game to focus on the merits of the deal,” he said.

Having worked at the Palo Alto wastewater treatment plant for some 23 years, Margaret Adkins, Palo Alto chapter chair of Service Employee International Union, Local 521, spoke to the benefits of collective bargaining, which she said enabled workers to adequately provide for their families. Without union representation, workers’ earnings are at the discretion of management, said Adkins, who added that though nobody is forced to pay dues, many opt to because they recognize they are better able to advocate for themselves if they do.

Adkins was not convinced the ruling would diminish the ability of unions to advocate for workers, and said it’s widely recognized that large, powerful industries are behind the push to take away workers’ rights.

“I’m disappointed in the decision but it’s not going to affect us negatively,” she said. “We’re strong, we’re getting stronger and everybody sees this as what it is — as an attack on workers’ rights.”

California Teachers Association President Eric C. Heins agreed the decision was the result of a well-funded and nationally orchestrated effort to weaken the ability of workers to convene and speak in a united voice. By overturning precedence set by Abood v. Detroit Board of Education more than 40 years ago, the court’s ruling adopted a radical interpretation of the First Amendment and stands in the way of public teachers providing quality education for their students, said Heins.

“Today’s ruling is an attack on working people that attempts to further rig the economy and that reverses four decades of precedent,” said Heins in a prepared statement. “For educators, this an attempt to weaken our ability to stand up on behalf of our students and on behalf of quality public schools.”

Though Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, was still processing how the decision could play out, he voiced concern about its impact on working people throughout the country.

“I also fully expect California will continue to lead the way on worker rights and workplace protections,” he said in a statement. “Today is a stark reminder of the import of the U.S. Supreme Court on issues of the day and that elections do indeed matter.”

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.


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Rapid response: Supreme Court’s Janus vs. AFSCME labor union ruling



State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa

“One week from today, we’ll celebrate our nation’s independence from British rule. Today we celebrate our independence from public employee union control over hard-working Americans.”

Sacramento Democrats kill another common sense occupational licensing reform bill

By salrodriguez |
Orange County Register

Editor’s note: Breaking views are thoughts from individual members of the editorial board on today’s headlines.

Democratic politicians like to present themselves as advocates for the poor and working California. In reality, Democrats in Sacramento are too often merely proponents of leveraging bigger government to the benefit of politically advantageous special interest groups to the detriment of poor and working Californians.

Their resistance to occupational licensing reform is a clear example of this tendency.

Occupational licensing is sold to the public as necessary for the protection of the public and the professionalization of industries. In reality, occupational licensing is mostly a scheme by which members of an occupation use government to erect barriers to entry, limit competition and thereby raise costs to consumers.

The Obama White House, Little Hoover Commission and the Trump administration alike have recognized the problems of overextended occupational licensing requirements.

As the Little Hoover Commission warned, licensing requirements punish the poor on at least two levels, “first by imposing significant costs on them should they try to enter a licensed occupation and second by pricing the services provided by licensed professionals out of reach.”

The Archbridge Institute has further noted an association nationwide between growth in occupational licensing and income inequality.

For those naive enough to take the progressive rhetoric of California Democratic politicians at face value, one might think Democrats would be open to reforming policies which punish the poor the most and aggravate income inequality.

Sure enough, the Democratic politicians in Sacramento would rather appease special interest groups than the poor.

On June 26, the Assembly’s Business and Professions committee overwhelmingly rejected a modest proposal to eliminate occupational licensing requirements for shampooing, arranging, dressing, curling, waving, cleansing or beautifying hair.

The bill, SB 999 from Sen. Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, was rejected with only 3 votes in favor, 14 opposed. These are the Assembly members who voted against it: Arambula, Bloom, Chiu, Cunningham, Eggman, Gipson, Grayson, Holden, Irwin, Low, McCarty, Medina, Mullin, Ting.

“I’m just trying to have government work for us not against us and be our servant, not our master,” Morrell appealed to the committee.

In response, this statement from Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, sums up the approach of the Democrats: “I think you bring up some very good points and certainly we don’t want a barrier to entry but … I won’t be supporting your bill …”

The bill faced opposition from the California Labor Federation, which complained that the bill would open up competition, saying “eliminating training requirements not only lowers the bar but floods the market with new, less qualified entrants — directly attacking workers’ bargaining power and almost certainly reducing wages.”

Of course, they intentionally conflated training requirements with occupational licensing. People who wish to make a living in shampooing, arranging, dressing, curling, waving, cleansing or beautifying hair will certainly learn how to do their jobs correctly and effectively, otherwise they wouldn’t get much business.

Predictably, the industry also complained, with the Professional Beauty Association arguing the bill “would be detrimental to the California beauty industry.” No it wouldn’t. They just don’t want competition.

Alas, California remains one of the most licensed states in the country. An Institute for Justice report looking at 102 lower-income occupations nationwide found that California licensed 76 of them, often with more onerous requirements than other states.

It should be noted this isn’t the first time the Democrats killed a licensing reform bill.

Last year, they killed a bill from Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, to repeal licensing requirements for a handful of lower-income jobs. It’s what they do.

While Democratic politicians might continue to fool poor Californians into thinking they’re on their side, the reality is the Democratic establishment cares only about self-preservation. Doing what’s right isn’t of interest to the Democratic establishment, only what is self-serving. It’s no wonder California leads the nation in poverty.

Sal Rodriguez is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. He may be reached at salrodriguez

Senator John Moorlach honored Hughes & Hughes, LLP 2018 California Small Business Association honoree

On June 19, 2018, Senator John Moorlach honored Hughes & Hughes, LLP, a prominent family law firm in Tustin as the 2018 California Small Business Association Honoree for Senate District 37.

Headed by partners Lisa and Bruce Hughes, the firm combines solid experience in complex family law issues with sensitivity to the emotions and feelings of their clients. All firm lawyers and legal aides help guide clients through the legal proceedings quickly to return each client to peace of mind and normalcy. The partners also work to lend legal expertise to successfully improve the laws of the State of California.

In particular, Bruce and Lisa Hughes worked with Senator Moorlach from 2015-16 to pass Senate Bill 1255, which clarified a previous California Supreme Court decision which blurred the date of separation guidelines for dissolving marriages. SB 1255 became the first bill from Senator Moorlach that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law, becoming California Family Code Section 70.

Like Senator Moorlach, both Bruce and Lisa are Certified Public Accountants, enabling them to handle the most intricate accounting and financial practices typical to unique circumstances.

From their Orange County base, Hughes & Hughes serves families throughout Southern California.

This article was released by the Office of Senator John Moorlach.

Senator John Moorlach honored Hughes & Hughes, LLP as the 2018 California Small Business Association Honoree. Courtesy photo.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Dumping Developmentally Disabled — June 22, 2018

The insensitive callousness of the Democrats came through during the budget process this month in one glaring example of the true priorities of the majority party. There was an item that came up in the Budget and Fiscal Review meeting where more funding for the developmentally disabled was requested. I simply asked how that squared with the efforts by SEIU to replace individuals with this very need at a state prison facility in Stockton.

Replacing an outsourced service by a nonprofit firm was proposed so that dues paying public employee union members, with their higher salaries, first-cabin medical insurance benefits and a wonderful PEPRA defined benefit pension plan, would be hired instead. The justification was the “threat” of a lawsuit. I told my Democrat colleagues to have SEIU bring it on. It was time to stand up to this unprofessional and unbecoming bargaining unit behavior.

It turns out that union greed trumps developmentally disabled individuals who are doing an admirable job as outside contract service providers. Even when the Governor makes appointments to the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities. The supposed compassionate liberals continue to display their hypocrisy.

With a dwindling journalism population, you wonder if anyone is really listening to these budget hearings. Surely, one could see that public employee unions had bought the Legislature through campaign contributions to elect their candidates and they now are demanding payback. Such is the joy of this massive, but legal, conflict of interest.

The whole scenario brought back memories of last year, when I started asking over and over, “who’s your Daddy?” Who runs this place? It’s obviously labor unions (see MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 1250 Labor Dominance — July 13, 2017 july 13, 2017 john moorlach).

At the time, this nonsense did receive some television media attention.



CTNS via Fresno TV Stations: KGPE and KSEE.

I pushed back on this tragic budget trailer bill modification during a Budget Conference Committee meeting. So, to placate everyone, the Democrats split the baby in half and they felt absolved that only half of the contract was being terminated.

You just can’t make this stuff up. The OC Register‘s and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin‘s lead editorials get it in their piece below.

Sacramento backs SEIU over disabled workers at Stockton health care facility

By opinion |

Several people with disabilities will be out of work soon after the SEIU 1000 union complained government workers should be doing their jobs.

Since 2016, PRIDE Industries has employed mostly disabled Californians to perform contracted janitorial work at the California Heath Care Facility. About 120 of the 217 PRIDE employees at the facility have a mental or physical disability.

By all accounts, the contract with PRIDE Industries has been a benefit to the facility, all the while giving people with disabilities good-paying work. But SEIU 1000, which represents government custodial workers, didn’t like the competition, and threatened to sue the state for contracting with non-public sector workers.

Now, SEIU 1000 has forced the hand of the Legislature to shift half of the jobs held by contracted disabled workers to civil service positions, a 50-50 split aimed at appeasing SEIU while allowing at least half of the disabled workers to continue working.

“This is bullying by government at its worst,” as state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, put it at a budget hearing.

Indeed, this whole episode encapsulates much of what is wrong with California government. It highlights the disproportionate power of public-sector unions, the eagerness of state Democrats to bend to the will of public sector unions and the narrow self-interest of those unions.

PRIDE Industries took up the work at the California Health Care Facility after an audit found deficiencies in cleanliness and sanitation. They not only were solving a problem in need of a solution, but they were doing so with the added benefit of providing work to Californians with mental and physical disabilities.

Only in the world of public sector unions like SEIU 1000 is there a problem with that.

A review by the Department of Finance weighing the pros and cons of the contract with PRIDE Industries underscores this point.

According to the analysis by the DOF, PRIDE “is currently cleaning the facility to International Sanitary Supply Association standards, and has proven they can complete the job.” So there was no problem with them actually doing the work; they were doing it and doing it well.

The DOF also said that PRIDE’s ability to provide “all of the required staff” mitigates recruiting and retention issues “that have been common for institutional janitorial programs throughout the state.” So they were doing it well without the problems commonly seen across California.

PRIDE was also noted to require training and certification for of its employees, ensuring they can continue to do their jobs properly. On top of it all, the DOF noted the contract with PRIDE requires lower general fund expenditures than any alternative.

The one knock against them? The “SEIU grievance.”

Unfortunately, an attempt by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, to keep all of the PRIDE positions in place failed to advance.

Disabled workers will now lose their jobs, not because they weren’t qualified or doing a good job, but because a special interest group didn’t want the competition. This should be a lesson to anyone who doesn’t understand just how low the unions will go to prevent contracting with the private sector and preserve their power.

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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