MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 And The Facts — November 19, 2018

These facts are clear:

* I authored a bill in 2016, SB 1463, to address wildfires caused by sparking electrical lines in order to protect my constituents.

* The constituents who had been dealing with the CPUC and CalFire all disagreed that these two agencies were doing their job well or as quickly as they could. Thus, the reason for SB 1463.

* SB 1463 passed through a half-dozen committees, along with their thorough consultants and committee chairs, and passed three times on the Legislative Floors, receiving no votes in opposition during the process.

* SB 1463 was as bipartisan as any bill can get, including having prominent Democrats as co-authors.

* Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it, stating the bureaucracies he oversees were managing the situation and the bill was unnecessary.

* The 2017 Santa Rosa fire was caused by sparking electric lines last year, killing some 44 individuals.

* The current 2018 Camp Fire conflagration was also started by electric lines.

* A journalist makes note of the veto, something that also occurred last year, but this time it goes viral (for an example from 2017, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Conflagration Legacy — October 12, 2017).

* Snopes swoops in to protect the Governor (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Snopes is Fired Up — November 14, 2018).

Governor Brown relied on his bureaucracy. And he’s relied on a weak excuse, saying the real issue is climate change.

A good manager would not just trust, but verify his departments. A good manager would be proactive, demanding that due to climate change this dry and Santa Ana Winds state needs to harden electric lines and now! And, a good manager, when he or she falls short, apologizes, and does not act like the issue is trivial or beyond his or her control. (If you want to be a hero to your young children, if you have them, fess up and tell them you’re sorry when you screw up, as this goes a long way in building a solid relationship.)

This year, Governor Brown mentioned a $2.9 billion budget overrun for his High Speed Rail Authority in his annual State of the State Address. He laughed it off, literally, saying budget overruns happen. But, the state of Florida built an entire high-speed rail project, Brightline, for less than this California budget blip. This is no laughing matter. This is poor management.

Now we get a scathing audit report on California’s HSR from the State Auditor’s office, titled “Its Flawed Decision Making and Poor Contract Management Have Contributed to Billions in Cost Overruns and Delays in the System’s Construction” (see https://www.auditor.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2018-108.pdf). This is poor management and nothing suggests that it will get any better.

The Governor does not like to manage. The Department of Motor Vehicles is another example from this year. What was the solution? An emergency bill giving the DMV as much money as it needed to improve customer service. An open checkbook!! This is poor management.

Californians are now on the hook for the high cost of fighting wildfires around the state. But, our non-manager Governor vetoed SB 1463, a bill that tried to prevent them and the resulting greenhouse gases.

It’s time for the Governor to tap out and apologize.

Instead, we get more apologists trying to defend the Governor’s veto. What a joke. What a testimony to prove the claim that there is fake news. Those self-proclaimed media members who are claiming to get to the truth should do so and challenge failures of a sitting Governor. Not serve as members of the palace guard.

The first piece below picks up on the theme first addressed by Snopes. It is a by a reporter from PolitiFact who showed his lack of critical thinking last year on an op-ed we submitted regarding the status of crime in California (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Taken to Task — August 23, 2017).

Should it be hard for someone to comprehend when Gov. Brown pushed for AB 109, which released inmates from State Prisons, personal property crime statistics would go up? Please, ask any police officer that you bump into how things are going. Or, better yet, ask a retailer or someone who lost the laptop they left in their car overnight. But, I digress.

It’s a little difficult to determine what the point of the PolitiFact piece is supposed to be. But, it is amazing what one critical piece by Katy Grimes can do to stir up defenders of the craziness going on. It went so viral, it gave me numerous interviews on top-tier radio talk shows last week (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Prevention Not Embraced — November 13, 2018).

The second piece was a reaction to the same brouhaha and is found in The Washington Free Beacon. Fortunately, the reporter did a little more digging than just taking the CPUC’s paperwork as the answer. In fact, she finds that work didn’t really begin until August 2017, long after the Governor vetoed SB 1463. Poor management, once again.

With all of this excuse making and covering up, I decided to provide a lengthy, but thorough rebuttal. Fox and Hounds was willing to print this treatise and it is the third piece below.

The bottom line? The Governor should have signed SB 1463. It would have shown that he is managing departments that were dragging their feet. It would have shown he was concerned about really reducing greenhouse gases. And, most importantly, it would have allowed him to state he was working on preventing wildfires caused by electrical lines long before the Santa Rosa and Camp Fire conflagrations occurred.

This is a tragic way for Governor Brown to depart from Sacramento. Instead of blaming something he was a self-acclaimed warrior against, he should simply show some remorse and state he could have done more.

The fourth piece below is from Legal Insurrection. This piece covers another aspect of the causes of the fires and closes with my published reaction to the Governor’s veto back in 2016. It’s worth a second mention here:

“One of the paramount responsibilities of government is to provide for public safety. The consequences of wildfires include loss of life, property damage, impacts on ecosystems, etc. Communities in my district, particularly Laguna Beach, are rightfully very concerned about fire safety.

“SB 1463 would have not only safeguarded Laguna and other high fire-risk communities in Orange County, but would have helped other vulnerable communities throughout the state that are often threatened by wildfires caused by sparks from shorted or fallen utility lines. The Governor’s veto impedes the necessity to more urgently address the California Public Utilities Commission’s focus on identifying high risk areas that should be prioritized for appropriate mitigation measures.”

Examining Jerry Brown’s veto of California wildfire legislation and the criticism of it

By Chris Nichols

https://www.politifact.com/california/article/2018/nov/16/examining-jerry-browns-veto-2016-wildfire-legislat/

As deadly wildfires burned across California this week, a flurry of social media and blog posts called into question Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of a wildfire management bill two years ago. The posts suggested the legislation could have reduced or even prevented the recent infernos a contention strongly refuted by the Brown administration.

With so much attention on the fires, we decided to examine these claims, though we did not place any Truth-O-Meter ratings on them.

Here’s what we found:

In September 2016, Brown vetoed Senate Bill 1463, which aimed to reduce the risk of power lines sparking fires in brush-covered and wooded areas, saying in his veto letter that the bill duplicated existing efforts. SB 1463 had been unanimously approved by the state Legislature.

Here’s what the governor said in rejecting the bill:

“This bill requires the Public Utilities Commission to prioritize areas that have increased fire hazard associated with overhead utility facilities. Since May of last year, the Commission and CalFire have been doing just that through the existing proceeding on fire-threat maps and fire-safety regulations. This deliberative process should continue and the issues this bill seeks to address should be raised in that forum.”

Many of the posts criticizing Brown circulated an August 2018 blog at Flashreport.org, a conservative-leaning website. Some described it as evidence the governor had neglected to keep the state safe.

The blog describes Brown as “jetting around the world spouting climate change propaganda” as fires burned last year in California. It said his veto was “political.”

Had Brown approved the measure, lives could have been saved last year in the Santa Rosa fires, the bill’s author, state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, claimed in an interview this week on the Lars Larson radio show.

“Why the governor vetoed that, I don’t know. CPUC and CalFire have been working on it for eight years, can’t seem to get their act together,” Moorlach said. “But if we could have hardened some lines, especially in Santa Rosa last year at this time, we might have prevented the loss of 44 lives.”

Moorlach’s spokesman said the state senator was not available on Thursday for an interview.

Brown administration’s response

But instead of speeding up fire prevention, the Brown administration argued Moorlach’s bill would have slowed down existing work. The state utilities commission and CalFire, the state’s forestry and fire prevention agency, had been at work since 2013 mapping areas at risk of fires due to utility equipment.

Asked about the criticism leveled this week at Brown, Evan Westrup, the governor’s spokesman, said it was “absolutely shameful to exploit this tragedy – with fires still burning – to try to score cheap political points.”

Westrup added that the Brown administration has taken numerous steps to prevent fires in recent years, citing several efforts here:

— September 21, 2018: Governor Brown Signs Legislation to Strengthen Wildfire Prevention and Recovery

— August 7, 2018: CAL FIRE Awards $170 million to Reduce Fire Threat and Improve Forest Health

— May 10, 2018: Governor Brown Issues Executive Order to Protect Communities from Wildfire, Climate Impacts

— Oct. 30, 2015: Governor Brown Takes Action to Protect Communities Against Unprecedented Tree Die-Off

Terrie Prosper, a spokesperson for the utilities commission, wrote in an email that the bill “would have prolonged the safety work already going on by requiring the participation of certain entities, which was unnecessary because CAL FIRE was already a party to the proceeding, and local governments and fire departments could also participate.”

That process produced a statewide Fire-Threat Map in January, one month after the commission voted to strengthen regulations for utilities that have facilities in areas where thick vegetation and strong winds make fires more dangerous, according to a KQED news article.

‘Shot across the bow’

Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley, reviewed the bill and Brown’s veto message. He said in an email, “I do not think it would have made much of a difference, as the amount of funds was not that great ($582,000 that may have just led to some hiring of consultants and a lot interaction with the communities) and, more importantly, no new advances would have been made.”

Stewart, however, went on to describe the legislation as “a good shot across the bow to the (Brown) administration to do more. This area of risk assessment and mitigation has been woefully underfunded for decades.”

In the end, we found the recent blog and social media posts glossed over the governor’s reasons for rejecting the bill in question. They dismissed existing efforts to map high-risk fire areas that the Brown administration said would have been slowed down by the bill. Because the bill was vetoed, it’s impossible to know for sure whether it would have sped up or slowed down the process. But, as Stewart said, the bill could have served as a warning to get moving on existing efforts.

Trump to visit California

On Saturday, President Trump is scheduled to visit California “to meet with individuals impacted by the wildfires,” said Lindsay Walters, his deputy press secretary.

We’ve fact-checked the president and his recent erroneous claims about the fires.

Earlier this week, we rated False Trump’s recent claim “there is no reason” for California’s deadly fires except for poor forest management. The president ignored other key causes such as urban sprawl and climate change.

In August, we rated False his assertion that firefighters couldn’t access water due to California’s environmental policies. We found the president conflated the state’s real water controversy between farmers and environmentalists with the unrelated issue of firefighting.

The fires in Northern and Southern California which started last week left dozens dead in their wake, prompted the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed thousands of homes.

At least 63 people were killed in and nearby the Northern California town of Paradise, two people were killed by the Southern California fire, and a third death in that fire zone is under investigation as possibly linked to the fire.

Authorities said on Thursday there are 631 people still unaccounted for near the Northern California fire.

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California Gov. Brown’s Veto of Wildfire Bill Faces Scrutiny

Despite pushback, GOP state Sen. Moorlach says his measure could have lessened fire devastation

By Susan Crabtree

https://freebeacon.com/issues/california-gov-browns-veto-wildfire-bill-faces-scrutiny/

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2016 veto of wildfire-related bill is facing new scrutiny in the wake of the deadliest, most destructive week of fires in state history.

The measure would have required the state government’s public utility commission to work with municipalities to ensure that energy companies do all they can to prevent fires in high-risk areas.

When he vetoed the bill, Brown dismissed it as unnecessary and redundant to efforts the utility commission had already begun, arguing that it would gum up the process already underway.

The governor’s critics disagree, especially now that a power line is suspected to have caused the Camp Fire, which wiped out the small town of Paradise, Calif. in the worst fire in state history.

The Camp Fire that swept through Paradise has produced startling numbers: 77 dead, 1,276 listed as missing, 150,000 acres burned and 10,000 homes destroyed as of Sunday night.

President Trump visited wildfire-ravaged Paradise and Malibu on Saturday to witness the desolation and hear from victims.

Trump’s trip revived last weekend’s heated debate between himself and Brown over the root cause of the fires—whether lack of forest management or climate change is the root cause.

Brown at a press conference last Sunday called the fires the “new abnormal, and this new abnormal will continue in the next 10, 15, 20 years.”

“Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they’re going to intensify,” he said.

Reacting to the outbreak of the recent spate of fires more than a week ago, Trump blamed environmentalists in the state, tweeting in part, “so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests.”

Some community leaders and legislators, as well as many fire victims, see other culprits: the public utilities and those in state government who they believe haven’t done enough to protect against power lines snapping and igniting the blazes.

Residents in the city of Paradise filed suit against PG&E in San Francisco Superior Court Tuesday, alleging that the utility company’s negligence and faulty equipment generated the deadly Camp Fire. The plaintiff’s attorneys claimed that a high-voltage transmission line failed, igniting surrounding vegetation.

The cause has not been officially determined, but PG&E disclosed in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it “experienced an outage” on a transmitter line in Butte County at 6:15 a.m. on Nov. 8, minutes before the Camp Fire was reported.

Additionally, Cal Fire, the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire protection, has concluded that PG&E equipment sparked a series of destructive fires in 2017.

John Moorlach, a GOP state senator who authored the 2016 bill Brown vetoed, thinks it could have prevented at least some of blazes over the last two years and the havoc they wreaked on so many lives.

The measure, SB 1463, passed the Democrat-dominated legislature unanimously, 75-0 in the Assembly and 39-0 in the Senate in 2016.

The unanimous votes were preceded by a lengthy committee process involving several hearings and testimony from community leaders across the state worried that utilities weren’t doing enough to “harden” their lines in fire-prone areas.

“We did the bill at the request of the cities in my district, and we got it through the legislature, it went through three committees in the Senate, and we didn’t have one vote of opposition so it was sort of a shock that it was vetoed,” Moorlach told the Washington Free Beacon Thursday. “It was supposed to prevent fires in wildfire zones, and it’s also a way to reduce greenhouse gases so we were surprised when the governor vetoed this bill.”

Moorlach said he expected Brown and Democrats focused on climate change to embrace his bill because some of the worst wildfires in the state produce as much greenhouse gases “as all the cars driving in California for a year.”

“It just seems like someone as committed to that cause as Jerry Brown would say, ‘Get it done tomorrow. It should have been done six years ago when I got here,'” Moorlach said.

Asked about the veto, Brown’s spokesman reiterated his veto message and referred the Free Beacon’s questions to the CPUC.

In that 2016 veto message, Brown said the bill was redundant because the CPUC was already prioritizing areas that have increased fire hazard associated with “overhead utility facilities.”

“This deliberative process should continue, and the issues this bill seeks to address should be raised in that forum,” Brown said.

The CPUC said a fire-threat map the 2016 measure called for was approved in January 2018 and argued that the Moorlach measure would have prolonged the safety work already going on by requiring the participation of “certain entities, which was unnecessary because Cal Fire was already a party to the proceeding, and local governments and fire departments could also participate.”

It also said that the CPUC and Cal Fire were already “deeply engaged” in ongoing fire safety rulemaking processes at the time Brown vetoed the legislation.

Phase 1 of this effort began in 2013 and was completed in 2015. Phase 2 implemented new fire-safety regulations in high-priority areas of the state as called for in the vetoed legislation, “thus making the bill redundant.”

In addition, the CPUC spokeswoman said the CPUC and Cal Fire signed a Memorandum of Understanding in August 2017 that increased information sharing and investigative resources between the two organizations.

Despite the progress the CPUC cited,  Moorlach sill questions whether the commission has followed through on its efforts quickly and thoroughly enough.

“In California, you have to manage the state through legislation—you have to tell the departments how and when to do their job or it can just get lost in the bureaucracy” and take years longer than necessary, he said.

The measure, he said, aimed to give local governments more say in fire-prevention efforts through the CPUC proceeding making maps of fire-hazard areas around utility lines and taking steps to harden those lines and reduce vegetation around the above-ground power lines.

The cities in his district and elsewhere in the state obviously still thought it was necessary, he said. After all the map-making process had yet to be completed in 2016 when the bill passed the legislature unanimously.

“Some deliberative process. What a sad joke. No maps. More greenhouse gases. More innocent lives lost, all because a governor who despises managing a bureaucracy, relied on that same bureaucracy and received what? Nothing?” Moorlach wrote in a blog post this week.

“Now we have the Camp Fire,” he added.

The bill also received media attention after the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, the second-most destructive wildfire in California history after the Camp Fire.

Cal Fire found that the Tubbs Fire, as well as five other fires in a total of six counties, were caused by PG&E’s “electric power and distribution lines, conductors and the failure of power poles.”

Laguna Beach, an upscale city in Moorlach’s district, experienced four fires sparked by utility lines in the last 10 years and at least 441 homes were lost to fire, the senator said. The all-Democrat city council is still concerned about the area’s vulnerability to utility-sparked fires.

The small beachside city is nestled along the Orange County coastline and only has three entry points, two of them being the North and South entrances via the Pacific Coast highway and another through a long road through a hilly, dry canyon lined with wooden utility poles.

Moorlach says 58 or 59 or those poles have been hit in recent years, and when they are hit, the poles fall down blocking the roads for hours until they can be removed safely.

“If one of those poles falls down and the electric line snaps, it’s a huge fire hazard,” he said.

The bill also tried to give cities in fire-prone areas the opportunity to work with CPUC to place utilities underground in certain areas and help develop updated fire maps highlighting the communities at the highest risk.

This fall Laguna Beach tried to pass a ballot measure that would have imposed a 1 percent sales tax increase intended to pay for placing utility lines underground along Laguna Canyon road plus other fire-safety projects. It failed on a 53.8 percent to 46.2 vote.

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Fact-Checking Snopes and PolitiFact on California Wildfires  and SB 1463

By John Moorlach

State Senator representing the 37th Senate District

http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2018/11/fact-checking-snopes-politifact-california-wildfires-sb-1463/

The fact-checking sites Snopes and PolitiFact have called into question my Senate Bill 1463 from 2016. I am going to fact-check their fact-checking.

Snopes wrote: “Claim: Jerry Brown vetoed a wildfire management bill in 2016, contributing to the prevalence and risk of wildfires in the ensuing two years.” So, Snopes itself is claiming two “claims” here: the prevalence and risk of wildfires.

Snopes found “What’s True”: That Gov. Brown vetoed SB 1463, “a bill in the California legislature which would have required the California Public Utilities Commission to prioritize areas at increased risk from overhead wires in their management of wildfires.”

Snopes added in “What’s False”: “There is no evidence that Brown’s veto contributed to or exacerbated the risk or prevalence of wildfires in California, and the California Public Utilities Commission provided details showing that it had already been engaged in work similar to the proposals contained in SB 1463.”

The Two Claims

Let’s first look at the two claims:

Claim 1. The veto of SB 1463 contributed to the “prevalence” of wildfires from 2017-18. Here are the exact words of SB 1463:

SECTION 1.

“Section 761.2 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:

“761.2.

(a) In determining areas in which to require enhanced mitigation measures for wildfire hazards posed by overhead electrical lines and equipment, the commission, in consultation with the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, shall prioritize areas in which communities are subject to conditions that increase fire hazards associated with overhead utility facilities generally and at specific locations. Consistent with Section 321.1, the commission shall develop a definition of “enhanced mitigation measures” for purposes of this subdivision in Rulemaking 15-05-006 (Filed May 7, 2015), Order Instituting Rulemaking to Develop and Adopt Fire-Threat Maps and Fire-Safety Regulations, or in another appropriate proceeding.

“(b) Any findings supporting a decision to approve the boundaries for areas described in subdivision (a) shall describe how the commission incorporated the concerns of local governments, fire departments, or both in determining those boundaries.”

Doesn’t it seem obvious that “to prioritize” areas with “conditions that increase fire hazards” with “enhanced mitigation efforts” might reduce fires? The key word is “might,” because, as with auto or homeowners insurance, we can’t know exactly where disaster might strike, and where it might be avoided. At a minimum, studies would be needed to indicate which of the 2017-18 fires might have been mitigated by SB 1463. Snopes should have waited for such studies, or conducted them on its own.

Meanwhile, on just one day, November 13, 2018, the media ran four stories fingering overhead power line failures for the new fires:

  1. Utility emailed woman about problems 1 day before fire

AP, Nov. 13, 2018

“A day before a deadly blaze destroyed a California town, the giant utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co. got in touch with Betsy Ann Cowley, saying they needed access to her property because their power lines were causing sparks.”

  1. Fires put pressure on California utilities despite new law

AP, Nov. 13, 2018

“California utilities again are facing severe financial pressures from the possibility that their equipment sparked catastrophic wildfires, including two that are now burning at either end of the state. The pressure comes even though Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in September giving utilities some relief beginning next year.”

  1. State regulators investigating PG&E, SoCal Edison for roles in deadly Camp, Woolsey fires

San Jose Mercury, Nov. 13, 2018

“State regulators have launched investigations into California’s two largest utility companies after both PG&E and Southern California Edison Company reported that their electrical infrastructure suffered malfunctions near ground zero of two deadly blazes raging across the north and south of the state.”

  1. Edison reported a disturbance with a circuit near Woolsey fire two minutes before fire sparked

Los Angeles Times, Nov. 13, 2018

“Southern California Edison said one of its circuits went out two minutes before the Woolsey fire began.”

Claim 2: The veto of SB 1463 contributed to the “risk” of wildfires from 2017-18. Risk is different from prevalence. Risk is an actuarial estimate of the future occurrence of something. Thus, the question is: Would SB 1463 have reduced the actual number and extent of wildfires, not just in 2017-18, but in the future?

I have no idea how much my legislation might have reduced the risk of wildfires, but what I do know is the CPUC and CalFire were moving at a snail’s pace on an issue that presented an existential threat to many Californians. There is also a risk in inaction and the governor chose that route.

Moreover, given the sclerotic nature of government agencies, especially the scandal-plagued CPUC (see below), SB 1463 might not even have been implemented yet, its benefits arriving only in future years after eventual CPUC compliance.

Trust the CPUC?

Next, let’s look at this Snopes statement under “What’s False” (supposedly):

“[T]he California Public Utilities Commission provided details showing that it had already been engaged in work similar to the proposals contained in SB 1463.”

And:

“In response to our questions, a spokesperson for Brown directed us to a spokesperson for the California Public Utilities Commission, who outlined in further detail the risk mitigation efforts undertaken as part of the agency’s initiative with CalFire (the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) and said that the bill Brown vetoed would actually have slowed down that progress:

“ ‘Senate Bill 1463 would have prolonged the safety work already going on by requiring the participation of certain entities, which was unnecessary because CAL FIRE was already a party to the proceeding, and local governments and fire departments could also participate.’”

Well, it’s odd that a supposed fact-checking organization would take the word of a government bureaucracy, the CPUC, itself known to be one of the worst managed agencies in the state. It’s virtually a regulatory DMV.

The June 28, 2016 San Francisco Chronicle headlined: “A scandal-plagued state agency gets a shake up at last.” The story:

“Calling the state Public Utilities Commission scandal-plagued is almost an understatement. Yes, it failed to spot faulty gas lines while its leaders dickered in private with power companies over consumer rates. But the stodgy agency is also falling short in monitoring California’s fast-changing economy.

“These pressures to mend past practices and anticipate the future lie behind changes that Sacramento is mapping out for the PUC. Pressure was building in the Legislature in an unstoppable wave that moved a reluctant Gov. Jerry Brown to agree to a makeover plan.

“For the Bay Area, there is no bigger explanation than the San Bruno explosion in 2010 that killed eight and leveled a neighborhood. A shoddy pipeline neglected by Pacific Gas & Electric should have caught the agency’s notice. An inquiry led to another troubling problem: Utility executives had back-channel access to agency commissioners who set rates for millions of consumers. The PUC was anything but a watchdog regulator.”

The ineptness of the CPUC is well known. But, working on simple fire maps for more than eight years and not broadcasting their effort to the Legislature? It could be done by someone with a laptop in two days.

Anxious cities wanted the fire maps. Accordingly, the Legislature tells the bureaucracy what to do, not the other way around. SB 1463 would have accelerated the critical prioritization. It’s done with so many proposed arenas and football stadiums. But the governor didn’t ask for such authority or guidance. He relied on a troubled agency, only now to find the project was buried in the bureaucracy, stating the bill could possibly complicate this drawn out process.

This assertion is proved, as SB 1436 was reviewed by six legislative committees. If the CPUC and CalFire were legitimately performing the work they claimed to be doing, shouldn’t they have informed at least one of the committee chairs?

Laguna Beach

Snopes also quoted from an August 8, 2018 article in “Flash Report” – real name, Flashreport – by the excellent journalist Katy Grimes:

“At the request of the City Council of Laguna Beach, Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) authored SB 1463 in 2016, a bipartisan bill which would have given local governments more say in fire-prevention efforts through the Public Utilities Commission proceeding making maps of fire hazard areas around utility lines.

“Laguna Beach went through four fires sparked by utility lines in the last ten years, and has done as much in the way of prevention as they could afford. The bill would have allowed cities to work with utilities to underground utility lines, and work with the Public Utilities Commission to develop updated fire maps by requiring the PUC to take into consideration areas in which communities are at risk from the consequences of wildfire — not just those areas where certain environmental hazards are present …

“Gov. Brown vetoed SB 1463, despite being passed by the Legislature, 75-0 in the Assembly and 39-0 in the Senate. That tells you this was political. The Governor’s veto message did not properly address why he vetoed the bill. Brown claimed that the [Public Utilities Commission] and CalFire have already been doing what Moorlach’s bill sought to accomplish. How on earth could Brown kill this bill when the state was burning down?”

Laguna Beach is part of my 37th District in the California Senate, so I want to take care of my constituents. I still remember the horror in 1993 when large sections of the beautiful city burned down from wildfires, which I could see from my home in Costa Mesa. They lost 441 homes. Even three years later, only about one-half of the homes had been rebuilt. Today, the average value of homes in Laguna Beach is more than $2 million. Another devastating fire would destroy many tens of millions of dollars of property, along with the potential loss of life.

There are only three roads into Laguna Beach. Two are PCH, North and South. The third is State Route 133, Laguna Canyon Road. Whenever I drive down this scenic road, I see how easy it is for someone to hit one of the wooden power poles, causing snapped electrical wires to ignite fires. In recent years, some 58 of these poles have been hit. Downed poles were blamed for fires there in 197020122015 and other years. We’re lucky more fires haven’t been started.

No wonder Laguna Beach officials and residents have been trying to “underground” their power lines. As the Orange County Register reported on August 31, 2016:

“[Councilman Bob] Whalen thanked Moorlach for his efforts to push the bill [SB 1436] in Sacramento.

“ ‘It was an uphill battle with the electric utilities, the cable TV operators and their lobbyists watching our every move,’ he said. ‘We didn’t get everything we wanted in this bill, but it is an important first step and will strengthen our hand as we do battle at the CPUC to make sure that Laguna Beach is recognized as an area for enhanced measures to prevent fires caused by overhead utilities.’

“City officials called for citywide ‘undergrounding’ of utilities following a 15-acre wildfire in July 2015 that started when trees fell into utility wires, causing a power surge that sparked flames. Whalen said the city ‘dodged a bullet’ with that fire thanks to favorable winds and firefighters’ efforts. He said he immediately contacted Southern California Edison and urged the utility company to partner with the city to reduce imminent threat of fire.

“Whalen and other city officials met with SCE several times. But [City Manager] John Pietig said the city chose the legislative route once it became obvious that city officials were not getting ‘meaningful assistance’ from SCE to bury the power lines.

“ ‘We can no longer risk the public safety of Laguna Beach by allowing above-ground utilities,’ Whalen said then. ‘A major fire disaster caused by power lines is only a matter of time.’”

Measure P

Laguna Beach residents even put Measure P on the November 6, 2018 ballot to pay for the undergrounding. It was defeated, with 54 percent voting “No”; a two-thirds “Yes” vote was needed for passage. Opponents contended it would have been the second city sales tax increase in two years, and, “Historically individual neighborhoods have paid for their own undergrounding,” among other arguments.

In my ballot recommendations, I also recommended a “No” vote because Californians everywhere already are taxed too much. As I noted in my October 22 Update, there are other funding sources. It’s best to find non-tax solutions to this and other problems.

In reference to Snopes, the point is at least 43 percent of voters in Laguna Beach even are willing to raise their own taxes to pay for undergrounding. Presumably a majority would favor undergrounding with other ways to pay for it.

Going beyond the Snopes inquiry, I also proposed a different SB 1463 in 2018, which would have dedicated 25 percent of state cap-and-trade funds to wildfire mitigation efforts. That bill failed. But parts of its concept were incorporated into SB 901, which did pass, and uses $200 million a year of cap-and-trade funds over five years for wildfire mitigation.

The connection with cap-and-trade is crucial. Cap-and-trade is intended to fund the reduction of greenhouse gases. Yet a few days of wildfires may generate a volume of greenhouse gases as great as every vehicle in the state operating for a whole year (in addition to the other toxic emissions and co-pollutants, not counting the immense loss of life and property).

Don’t even get me started on the amount of cap-and-trade money that is going to the high-speed rail boondoggle. Perhaps we should divert every last cent to our fire-prone areas and abandon the not-so-bullet train? Especially since it will be electric-powered?

If SB 901 – or either version of SB 1463 – can prevent even one wildfire, then it would more than pay for its cost.

PolitiFact Mangles the Facts Again

After the Snopes piece came out, PolitiFact produced a similar analysis by Chris Nichols, “Examining Jerry Brown’s veto of California wildfire legislation and the criticism of it.”

Back in August 2017, I refuted a piece by Nichols on California’s worsening crime problem. Writing this time, he is more cautious, “With so much attention on the fires, we decided to examine these claims, though we did not place any Truth-O-Meter ratings on them.”

In the new piece, Nichols rehashes similar material to that of Snopes, including the same CPUC excuses. And he quotes Evan Westrup, Gov. Brown’s spokesman, who said it was “absolutely shameful to exploit this tragedy – with fires still burning – to try to score cheap political points.” It’s not clear from the Nichols piece if Westrup is criticizing my efforts and comments, or something else. But for the record: In democracies, it’s just such discussions by which we solve our most pressing problems.

Nichols continued, “Westrup added that the Brown administration has taken numerous steps to prevent fires in recent years, citing several efforts here.” Listed are four positive steps, such as “September 21, 2018: Governor Brown Signs Legislation to Strengthen Wildfire Prevention and Recovery.” Not mentioned by Nichols: the legislation was SB 901, and that I supported it.

Of course, Gov. Brown is to be commended for taking this and other steps. But the issue at hand is SB 1463 from 2016.

Nichols also cites the familiar excuses by the CPUC, not noting its scandalous operations. The CPUC/Calfire “process produced a statewide Fire-Threat Map in January [2018], one month after the commission voted to strengthen regulations for utilities that have facilities in areas where thick vegetation and strong winds make fires more dangerous, according to a KQED news article.”

Well, perhaps that process might have begun a year earlier if SB 1463 had been signed into law in the fall of 2016. And Nichols does not cite this part from that very same KQED article:

“Cal Fire and the California Public Utilities Commission have been working for years to make maps of the highest-risk areas in California. Those maps, once finished, could be used to hold utility companies such as Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to higher fire safety standards.

“After last month’s [October 2017] deadly Northern California wildfires, some state lawmakers are saying the process of making the maps is moving too slowly, putting people’s lives at risk….

“State Sen. John M. Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown this week asking him for details about what exactly the agencies have been doing.

“ ‘This mapping exercise has been going on for a decade, while over the last few years, dozens of lives and hundreds of thousands of acres have been lost in wildfires resulting from fires started by utility wires,’ Moorlach wrote in the letter.

“The effort to create this set of maps started about a decade ago after deadly wildfires burned through Southern California.”

Nichols’ article quotes Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley, who said, “I do not think it [SB 1463] would have made much of a difference, as the amount of funds was not that great ($582,000 that may have just led to some hiring of consultants and a lot interaction with the communities) and, more importantly, no new advances would have been made.” (Parentheses in original.) But it was “a good shot across the bow to the (Brown) administration to do more. This area of risk assessment and mitigation has been woefully underfunded for decades.”

That’s contradictory. Isn’t “a good shot across the bow” more than not making “much of a difference”? And Stewart actually is talking about Brown’s vetoing of the bill, not what would have happened if it actually had been signed into law – which I contend would have produced better results.

Nichols’ conclusion: “Because the bill was vetoed, it’s impossible to know for sure whether it would have sped up or slowed down the process.” So he actually concedes it might have “sped up … the process.”

As in their August 2017 article, Nichols and PolitiFact are confused about the facts.

We Can Fight Wildfires

It is such realistic solutions as my bills that are needed to fight California fires. In January, I am considering introducing new legislation along the lines of the 2018 version of SB 1463. With new members of the Legislature and a new governor, new approaches should receive new consideration.

Meanwhile, Snopes needs to “Snopes” its own investigations and PolitiFact needs to fact-check itself.

John M.W. Moorlach represents the 37th District in the California Senate

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President Trump will travel to California to meet with wildfire victims

Posted by Leslie Eastman

https://legalinsurrection.com/2018/11/president-trump-will-travel-to-california-to-meet-with-wildfire-victims/

President Donald Trump will travel to California this Saturday to meet with victims of several deadly wildfires currently burning in the region that have already claimed the lives of over 70 people.

The state is currently fighting two fires, one outside of Los Angeles and another far more deadly fire north of Sacramento. As of Thursday afternoon, authorities had confirmed 56 deaths in the northern California fire known as the Camp Fire, and another three deaths in the southern fire, known as the Woolsey fire.

It was unclear Thursday precisely which area of the state Trump planned to visit. The White House said more information would be released in the coming days.

The President will have a lot of devastation to view. Drone footage of the City of Paradise shows that that a gorgeous, small town is little more than ash and soot.

The death toll is expected to climb over the next few days, having already reached 71 as of Saturday morning.  There are also more than 1,000 missing people, and that list is expected to expand as well.

It appears that a temporary truce has been called between Trump and the political leaders of the #Resistance from California.

Trump has visited California once since taking office — to view border wall prototypes along the U.S.-Mexico border. The president tweeted on Wednesday that he had spoken with Gov. Jerry Brown “to let him know that we are with him, and the people of California, all the way!”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is glad to see the president come to California.

“I welcome the president’s visit to see the extent of the damage from these ongoing wildfires and look forward to working with his administration to ensure California receives all the federal support possible in the response and recovery,” Feinstein said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the quest for the origins of this year’s fires, especially the Camp Fire that incinerated Paradise and the Woolsey fire that destroyed numerous celebrity homes and 83% of the cherished Santa Monica National Recreation Area. The park had been the site used for filming many TV shows and movies.

There are many theories being offered about why these fires began.

An electrical cause is certainly on the table, [James Engel, the deputy chief of law enforcement and fire prevention at the northern division of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection] said, from a power line that could have fallen in the wind, or some other malfunctioning electrical equipment.

Other causes will also be considered, from a tossed cigarette to a power-mower blade sparking a rock to a hot vehicle tailpipe. Many investors in Pacific Gas and Electric, one of California’s largest utility companies, have already placed their bets and reduced their risk, with the company’s share price plummeting in a wave of selling in fear that the company will be held liable.

It should be noted that in 2016, the state’s electric utility was poised to be the center of bipartisan legislation from both state houses, but Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill. California investigative reporter Katy Grimes recently offered this background:

California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bipartisan wildfire management bill in 2016, despite unanimous passage by the Legislature, 75-0 in the Assembly and 39-0 in the Senate. SB 1463 would have given local governments more say in fire-prevention efforts through the Public Utilities Commission proceeding making maps of fire hazard areas around utility lines. In a gross display of politics, this is especially pertinent given that Cal Fire and the state’s media are now blaming the largest utility in the state for the latest wildfires.

In his explanation of the veto, Brown indicated that map-making and threat-assessment was already occurring between the utilities commission and Cal Fire.

After Brown’s veto California Senator John Moorlach predicted:

“One of the paramount responsibilities of government is to provide for public safety. The consequences of wildfires include loss of life, property damage, impacts on ecosystems, etc. Communities in my district, particularly Laguna Beach, are rightfully very concerned about fire safety.

“SB 1463 would have not only safeguarded Laguna and other high fire-risk communities in Orange County, but would have helped other vulnerable communities throughout the state that are often threatened by wildfires caused by sparks from shorted or fallen utility lines. The Governor’s veto impedes the necessity to more urgently address the California Public Utilities Commission’s focus on identifying high risk areas that should be prioritized for appropriate mitigation measures.”

If it turns out the a powerline is responsible for these blazes,  Moorlach  would have been tragically prescient.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Snopes is Fired Up — November 14, 2018

Well, well, well. It’s a rare day when one of my UPDATEs gets media attention. But, when a Governor who flies all over the globe, leaving a large carbon footprint in the process, to preach against global warming, vetoes a bill that addresses the reduction of greenhouse gases, I do get fired up (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Prevention Not Embraced — November 13, 2018). Politico did it in their “California Playbook” column. Instead of including the entire column, I’m just providing the brief mention in the first piece below.

The Daily Caller weighs in on the subject in the second piece below. It baffles me that a Governor so consumed with addressing global warming would veto a bill that attempted to reduce wildfires, a major creator or greenhouse gases.

But, would SB 1463 have saved lives if Gov. Brown had signed it? Who’s to know. The answer is an obvious “maybe.” But, if the goal is to reduce greenhouse gases, why not put a little more pressure on the California Public Utilities Commission and CalFire to expedite the process?

In California, Sacramento is managed through legislation. The CPUC and CalFire had more than 8 years to get the job done. I have a community in my District that is in a wildfire zone and lost 441 homes 25 years ago. For the Governor to assume that these two bureaucracies would move at a faster clip is, in my opinion, a serious error in judgment.

What if Malibu would have been ranked as a high-risk area? Or Paradise? Perhaps some form of mitigation may have been pursued by the utility companies. But for an apostle espousing the impacts of climate change to do nothing makes no sense on several levels.

Getting to the bottom of this concern is none other than Snopes. They weigh in with a mixed review in the third piece below. Snopes evaluates a piece by Katy Grimes of the Flashreport back in August of this year (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Spewing Carbon Into The Air — August 8, 2018).

This is the first time I’ve been mentioned in a Snopes piece. It’s unfortunate that they did not contact me or my office in doing their independent research. One wonders if quoting a government bureaucracy that is covering its tracks is a valid refutation. And using terms like “prevalence” and “risk” certainly begs for a longer rebuttal on my part, which may come in a future UPDATE.

If only Governor Brown would have made hardening electrical lines as big a priority as building his high speed rail over the past eight years, just maybe this veto would not have occurred and generated so much social media attention.

California Playbook

POLITICO

California Playbook

Carla Marinucci and Jeremy B. White’s must-read briefing on politics and government in the Golden State

https://www.politico.com/newsletters/california-playbook/2018/11/14/blue-wave-grows-harder-beats-denham-katie-porter-pulls-ahead-of-mimi-walters-thurmonds-lead-over-tuck-grows-former-assembly-gop-leader-gop-is-dead-in-ca-zinke-to-join-brown-in-fire-zone-tour-345853

— FIRED UP: Republican state Sen. John Moorlach, in a blog post, argues that Gov. Jerry Brown had a big chance to push for fire prevention in his bill, SB1463 — and vetoed it. “I thought the adventure with my bill to address electric line-caused conflagrations in wildfire zones with SB 1463 (2016) had run its course.” Read it here.

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As California Burns, Jerry Brown Takes Heat For Voting Down 2016 Wildfire Mitigation Bill

by Michael Bastasch

https://www.conservativedailynews.com/2018/11/as-california-burns-jerry-brown-takes-heat-for-voting-down-2016-wildfire-mitigation-bill/

  • Critics are attacking California Gov. Jerry Brown for vetoing a 2016 bill aimed at mitigating fire risks from utility equipment.
  • “He has done nothing to harden those assets,” said GOP state Sen. John Moorlach.
  • Wildfires have consumed more than 221,000 acres since Thursday, killing at least 44 people.

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to veto a 2016 bipartisan bill aimed at mitigating wildfire risks from power lines and utility equipment has become the focus of critics as fires rage across the state.

Wildfires have scorched more than 221,000 acres across California since Thursday, and Brown’s critics are pointing to the two-year-old veto as news reports suggest power lines may have sparked the deadliest wildfire in California’s history.

“He has done nothing to harden those assets,” state Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Moorlach sponsored the 2016 bill, called SB 1463, which would have given local governments a bigger role in putting together fire risk maps with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency.

The bill also required the CPUC to work with utilities to mitigate wildfire risks, including putting transmission lines underground if necessary. The bill passed through both state legislative chambers, but Brown vetoed the bill in September 2016. Brown said state officials “have been doing just that through the existing proceeding on re-threat maps and re-safety regulations.”

Two years later, Moorlach said the state agencies and utilities have made little progress in mitigating the risk of wildfires faced by communities across the state.

“Well they’ve been working on it for like eight years and they haven’t gotten it done. This is really simple stuff,” Moorlach said. “Utilities are just sort of hanging onto the money.”

Journalist Katy Grimes also criticized Brown’s veto. The conservative journalist tweeted that “Brown had many chances to address CA’s increasing wildfires since his election in 2011, but instead chose to play politics.”

Brown, however, did sign legislation in September that would dedicate some funds raised through California’s cap-and-trade program to forest management. Moorlach support the bill, but said Brown should have acted sooner to mitigate wildfire risks.

Brown has largely framed wildfires as the product of man-made global warming. On Sunday, Brown said “those who deny” global warming contributed to the fires.

Moorlach said Brown’s concern about the climate was “inconsistent” with his 2016 veto.

“Not addressing wildfires has reversed all the work we’ve done to reduce greenhouse gases,” Moorlach told TheDCNF. “It’s inconsistent.”

“It’s sort of become his religion,” Moorlach said of Brown’s global warming fervor.

The 135,000-acre Camp Fire destroyed thousands of structures, including engulfing the entire northern California town of Paradise. The Campre Fire resulted in at least 42 deaths, making it the deadliest blaze in state history.

It’s not clear what exactly caused the fire, but local media reports suggest PG&E power lines may be to blame for the deadly fire.

PG&E said it had problems with a power line minutes before the Camp Fire started. Landowner Betsy Ann Cowley said PG&E needed to access to her property in Pulga because “they were having problems with sparks.” The fire started on Cowley’s land.

Cal Fire also blamed PG&E power lines and equipment for deadly wildfires that ravaged northern California last year. Those 16 fires killed at least 44 people and destroyed hundreds of structures.

In southern California, the 96,000-acre Woolsey Fire killed at least two people as it made its way to the iconic beach city of Malibu. Utility SoCal Edison said “a circuit relayed out of the Chatsworth Substation about two minutes before the blaze broke out,” CNN reported.

SoCal Edison reported to state officials that “at this point we have no indication from fire agency personnel that SCE utility facilities may have been involved in the start of the fire.”

Brown’s office did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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Did California Governor Jerry Brown Veto a Wildfire Management Bill, Increasing the Risk of Wildfires?

BY DAN MACGUILL

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/jerry-brown-veto-wildfire-bill/

Claim

Jerry Brown vetoed a wildfire management bill in 2016, contributing to the prevalence and risk of wildfires in the ensuing two years.

Rating

Mixture

What’s True

In September 2016, Governor Brown vetoed SB 1463, a bill in the California legislature which would have required the California Public Utilities Commission to prioritize areas at increased risk from overhead wires in their management of wildfires.

What’s False

There is no evidence that Brown’s veto contributed to or exacerbated the risk or prevalence of wildfires in California, and the California Public Utilities Commission provided details showing that it had already been engaged in work similar to the proposals contained in SB 1463.

Origin

In November 2018, after the Camp Fire broke out in Northern California, killing more than 40 people and destroying thousands of homes, social media users began sharing a three-month-old article that placed a share of the blame for California’s 2018 wildfire season, already one of the most destructive in living memory, at the desk of Governor Jerry Brown.

On 8 August, the “Flash Report” web site, which covers California politics from a conservative-leaning point of view, reported on a piece of legislation from 2016 which was intended to address one aspect of the state’s perennial wildfire problem but was vetoed by Governor Brown, a Democrat. The article carried the headline “CA Gov. Jerry Brown Vetoed Bipartisan Wildfire Management Bill in 2016” and read:

At the request of the City Council of Laguna Beach, Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), authored SB 1463 in 2016, a bipartisan bill which would have given local governments more say in fire-prevention efforts through the Public Utilities Commission proceeding making maps of fire hazard areas around utility lines.

Laguna Beach went through four fires sparked by utility lines in the last ten years, and has done as much in the way of prevention as they could afford. The bill would have allowed cities to work with utilities to underground utility lines, and work with the Public Utilities Commission to develop updated fire maps by requiring the PUC to take into consideration areas in which communities are at risk from the consequences of wildfire — not just those areas where certain environmental hazards are present …

Gov. Brown vetoed SB 1463, despite being passed by the Legislature, 75-0 in the Assembly and 39-0 in the Senate. That tells you this was political. The Governor’s veto message did not properly address why he vetoed the bill. Brown claimed that the [Public Utilities Commission] and CalFire have already been doing what Moorlach’s bill sought to accomplish. How on earth could Brown kill this bill when the state was burning down?

In the context of the Camp Fire in November, Facebook users  shared the Flash Report article widely, with many observers citing it as evidence that Brown bore some of the blame for the many similar wildfires which cost lives and caused massive destruction to property in the intervening two years.

As Flash Report indicated in their August article, Governor Brown did indeed veto Senate Bill 1463 in September 2016, after it had been passed by both houses of the California legislature without a single vote in opposition. That legislation would have had imposed the following requirement:

SECTION 1.

Section 761.2 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:

“In determining areas in which to require enhanced mitigation measures for wildfire hazards posed by overhead electrical lines and equipment, the [Public Utilities Commission], in consultation with the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, shall prioritize areas in which communities are subject to conditions that increase fire hazards associated with overhead utility facilities generally and at specific locations…”

Flash Report was somewhat self-contradictory in their characterization of this veto. On the one hand, the article claimed that Brown “did not properly address” his rationale for refusing to sign the bill, but it also accurately wrote that Brown had said, roughly speaking, he regarded the provisions of the legislation as redundant due to an initiative that was already under way. In his veto message, Brown wrote:

This bill requires the Public Utilities Commission to prioritize areas that have increased fire hazard associated with overhead utility facilities. Since May of last year, the Commission and CalFire have been doing just that through the existing proceeding on fire-threat maps and fire-safety regulations. This deliberative process should continue and the issues this bill seeks to address should be raised in that forum.

The author of the Flash Report article, Katy Grimes, claimed a link between the prevalence of destructive fires in California in recent years and Brown’s decision to veto SB 1463, referencing one of her earlier articles:

Today, as California burns once again under torrential wildfires, many Californians have been asking why the dramatic increase in wildfires in the last five years … that is everyone except Governor Jerry Brown. Governor Brown claims that year-round, devastating fires are the “new normal” we must accept.

Megan Barth and I reported:

“Supporting Obama-era regulations have resulted in the new normal: an endless and devastating fire season. Obama-era regulations introduced excessive layers of bureaucracy that blocked proper forest management and increased environmentalist litigation and costs– a result of far too many radical environmentalists, bureaucrats, Leftist politicians and judicial activists who would rather let forests burn, than let anyone thin out overgrown trees or let professional loggers harvest usable timber left from beetle infestation, or selectively cut timber.”

Mismanaged, overcrowded forests provide fuel to historic California wildfires, experts say. The 129 million dead trees throughout California’s forests are serving as matchsticks and kindling. Jerry Brown, busy mulling ways to prevent the end of the world, took the Clinton and Obama-era gross regulations a step even further when he vetoed a bipartisan wildfire management bill in 2016.

Despite drawing this connection, Grimes’ article did not contain any specific evidence to support the notion that Brown’s vetoing SB 1463 contributed to or exacerbated California’s wildfire problem.

In response to our questions, a spokesperson for Brown directed us to a spokesperson for the California Public Utilities Commission, who outlined in further detail the risk mitigation efforts undertaken as part of the agency’s initiative with CalFire (the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) and said that the bill Brown vetoed would actually have slowed down that progress:

Senate Bill 1463 would have prolonged the safety work already going on by requiring the participation of certain entities, which was unnecessary because CAL FIRE was already a party to the proceeding, and local governments and fire departments could also participate.

In fact, [at] the time the vetoed legislation was introduced, the CPUC and CAL FIRE were already deeply engaged in an ongoing fire safety rulemaking process (R.15-05-006, Rulemaking to Develop and Adopt Fire-Threat Maps and Fire-Safety Regulations). Phase 1 of this effort began in 2013 and was completed in 2015. Phase 2 implemented new fire safety regulations in high priority areas of the state as called for in the vetoed legislation, thus making the bill redundant. In January 2018, the Statewide Fire-Threat Map was approved.

Further, the CPUC and CAL FIRE signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in August 2017 that further bolstered our relationship. The MOU increased information sharing and investigative resources between the two organizations.

CAL FIRE, as first responders, provides findings and immediate facts to the CPUC. The CPUC follows after the event to conduct in-depth investigations if utility involvement is suspected. Key points of the MOU include: Developing consistent approaches to forest management, wildfire prevention, public safety, and energy programs; Assist one another in preparing for, responding to, and mitigating the effects of wildfires; Deepening awareness of the requirements and goals of each other’s programs; and Creation of Interagency Fire Safety Working Group to vet ideas and develop programmatic solutions to shared goals in the interest of fire safety and resource protection.

Sources

·       Grinberg, Emanuella and Holly Yan.   “44 Dead in California Fires as the Camp Fire Becomes the Deadliest in State History.”
CNN.   13 November 2018.

·       Grimes, Katy.   “CA Gov. Jerry Brown Vetoed Bipartisan Wildfire Management Bill in 2016.”
FlashReport.org.   8 August 2018.

·       California Legislature.   “SB 1463 — Electrical Lines: Mitigation of Wildfire Risks.”
29 August 2016.

·       Barth, Megan and Katy Grimes.   “California Burns: the ‘New Normal’ Thanks to Obama Era Environmental Regulations.”
FlashReport.org.   6 August 2018.

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MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — OC Ballot Measures — October 17, 2018

This should be the final episode of the Orange County Voter Guide for the November General Election. The edition below focuses on the various ballot measures around the county for school bonds and city election formats, tax increases, and other proposals.

The days that I’ve been warning about are here. The big open secret is that tax increases through local ballot measures are not for public safety or whatever else sounds manipulatively good enough to garner votes from naive residents. These tax increase requests are to fund overly generous public employee defined benefit pension plans.

I warned this day was coming (see just one of many examples at MOORLACH UPDATE — Pension Boosts are a Bad Bargain). The link includes public quotes of mine from 14 years ago!

Allow me to provide ten general rules and observations, which will hopefully explain my positions.

One: Vote against bonds. For school bonds, increasing property taxes will hurt homeowners and renters, especially new homeowners who have purchased at recent all-time real estate market highs. (Note: Lowell Joint School District is headquartered in Los Angeles County and was not included in my school district Voter Guides.) We’ve shown you that Santa Ana Unified School District is in such terrible shape, the worst by far in the OC, that throwing more money at this mismanaged district would be a huge mistake (see MOORLACH UPDATE — LAUSD vs. OC School Districts — September 18, 2018). Proposition 39 (2000) lowered the 2/3 voter threshold to only requiring 55% of the vote when the school bond measure is on a ballot for a regularly scheduled election.

Two: Vote against imposing term limits. The reason for establishing term limits — with Proposition 140 in 1990 — was to get rid of then-Speaker of the Assembly Willie Brown. But, I’ve seen how it has negatively impacted Sacramento and the OC Board of Supervisors. Term limits are not an appropriate solution to deal with incompetent, overly opportunistic or clinging-to-a-position office holders. In Sacramento, term limits took power and influence away from elected officials and gave it to unelected bureaucrats, staffers and lobbyists.

Three: Vote against corporate cronyism that enriches developers and stresses the existing infrastructure. Opposing Anaheim’s two developmental agreements are easy votes.

Four: Vote against minimum wage increases. The Anaheim measure is a brilliant, but diabolical union money grab that will hurt more than it will help.

Five: Vote against sales tax increases. Poor management decisions from the past should not be your future personal financial burden. The amount of revenues generated could be equaled by the employees of the cities taking a small salary reduction. If this is too difficult for them, the private sector job market is on fire and they can easily find a new job there. They may realize, however, how good their total compensation and benefit package really is and how unfair it is for the taxpayers to underwrite these costs. Special tax increases still requires a 2/3 voter approval to be implemented.

Although Laguna Beach has honorably dedicated their proposed 1% sales tax towards the undergrounding of electric lines, I just voted for, and the Governor signed, SB 901 to provide Cap and Trade funding for this particular infrastructure improvement (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Epilogue — October 4, 2018).

Six: With cities being coerced into establishing districts from which council candidates must arise, why should those candidates have to run citywide? I do not agree with splitting municipalities into districts for many reasons. But, if it is being forced on the electorate, then focusing a candidate’s campaign just on the voters in that district is the fairer approach to pursue.

Seven: If a city wishes to pursue financing that skirts obtaining voter approval, why not require it anyway in the charter?

Eight: Should a city have a separate tax on cannabis? Why set this precedent? What product comes next? All to make the annual pension plan contribution?

Nine: Although taxing tourists is an easy thing to do, should you disadvantage your accommodation providers just to make the annual pension plan contribution?

Ten: Should you approve one massive charter amendment, when some components are questionable? Or should the various components have been provided in separate ballot measures?

School District Measures
Los Alamitos USD
G Los Alamitos USD – Los Alamitos Unified School District  NO
Bond Measure

Lowell Joint School District

LL Lowell Joint SD – Lowell Joint School District NO
Newport-Mesa USD
H Newport-Mesa USD – Newport-Mesa Unified School District  NO
Trustee Term Limits

Santa Ana USD

I Santa Ana USD – Santa Ana Unified School District  NO
Bond Measure

City Measures

Anaheim
J City of Anaheim – Referendum Measure Approving  NO
Development Agreement No. 2016-00001
K City of Anaheim – Referendum Measure Approving  NO
Development Agreement No. 2016-00002
L City of Anaheim – Initiative Ordinance to Increase Minimum  NO
Wage Payable by Certain Hospitality Industry Employers
Cypress
M City of Cypress – Rezones 3.86 Acres Located at 5081 Orange  YES
Avenue from PS-1A Public/Semi-Public to PC Planning
Community (PC-14) in Compliance with Measure D
Garden Grove (1% Sales Tax Increase)
O City of Garden Grove – Garden Grove Public Safety/9-1-1 and  NO
Vital City Services Measure
Laguna Beach (1% Sales Tax Increase)
P City of Laguna Beach – Laguna Beach Utility Undergrounding  NO
and Fire Safety Measure
Lake Forest
Q City of Lake Forest – Advisory Vote Only: Convert from  NO
By-District to At-Large Council Elections
R City of Lake Forest – At-Large City Council Elections Ordinance NO
S City of Lake Forest – City Council Term Limit Ordinance NO
Newport Beach
T City of Newport Beach – Require Voter Approval Prior to  YES
Issuing or Incurring Certain Debt Obligations
Placentia (1% Sales Tax Increase)
U City of Placentia – 911/Essential Services Measure NO
San Clemente
V City of San Clemente – San Clemente, Initiative for Election of YES
City Council Members by District
Santa Ana (1.5% Sales Tax Increase & Cannabis Tax)
X City of Santa Ana – General Sales Tax Measure NO
Y City of Santa Ana – Commercial Cannabis Business License Tax NO
Z City of Santa Ana – Charter Amendment Measure NO
AA City of Santa Ana – By-Ward Elections YES
Seal Beach (1% Sales Tax Increase)
BB City of Seal Beach – Seal Beach Transaction and Use Tax NO
Tustin (3% Transient Occupancy Tax Increase)
CC City of Tustin – Increase Transient Occupancy Tax NO

 

MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Epilogue — October 4, 2018

With Senate Bill 656 being only the second bill I have had vetoed over my entire public service career, it provides an opportunity to share that I do not react well to vetoes. By this, I mean that I may come back with a different or improved iteration in a subsequent Session. I hint at it in my release on SB 656’s veto, which is provided by the Orange County Breeze in the second piece below.

Allow me to further explain what I mean. I authored Senate Bill 1463 in 2016. It is the first bill of mine that Governor Brown vetoed. It tried to prevent wildfires caused by disrupted or broken electric power lines. Tragically, in the two subsequent years after the Governor’s veto, numerous innocent and mostly elderly people have died as a result of wildfires from electric transformers and lines sparking in high gust weather conditions.

SB 1463 (2016) would have, at the minimum, accelerated the fire prevention efforts at the California Public Utilities Commission and CalFire so the electric utilities could have had the validation to expedite their processes of hardening the infrastructure that causes fires.

Sadly, the Governor’s veto message essentially said, “The bureaucrats are doing their jobs and I prefer to look the other way and let them finish . . . sometime . . . someday . . . in the future.”

Not that SB 1463 would have stopped all of the fires we’ve seen. But, can you imagine what may have transpired if Gov. Brown had taken this bill seriously? Perhaps there could have been one or two fewer fires. Some mitigation efforts to strengthen lines or transistors could have been easily done.

When Sen. Bill Dodd (D – Napa) introduced SB 901, I immediately asked to be a coauthor. I do not coauthor many bills. But, it was focused in the same vein as my redux of SB 1463 in 2018. I used the same bill number as two years prior, but added the use of Cap and Trade revenues to fund hardening the utility lines around the state. That funding would have brought upwards of $600 million annually to address California’s problematic and ostensibly, reduce GHGs caused by wildfires. My bill was killed in the first Senate committee hearing. This bill had no formal opposition. I can only assume the Committee members who voted against it were more concerned about their pet AB 32 projects than about actually reducing GHG emissions. But, SB 901 became the vehicle for a massive wildfire reform package.

For my Senate colleagues in the impacted areas, it created a Conference Committee near the conclusion of this year’s Session to address dealing with utility caused wildfires. And, why not? I stood up on the Senate Floor on many occasions to point out the massive loophole in AB 32’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases because it did not include those generated by wildfires. So much so, that a few days of wildfires generate more GHGs than all of California’s cars driving for an entire year!

When asked by the Sonoma Valley Sun, for the first piece below, why I voted for a bill that would cost PG&E ratepayers a lot of money, I had two responses. The first is that I have very few PG&E ratepayers in my District. A calloused answer, I know. But, if you live in areas with a higher fire danger, there is an increased cost for addressing this risk.

The second answer was that SB 901 took my recommendation to use Cap and Trade revenues, to the tune of $200 million per year over five years. This is an appropriate use of this unique tax in addressing the generation of GHGs by reducing wildfires.

Not all of my bills will be signed by the Governor. But, when a core piece from one of my bills shows up in another bill, thereby having my fingerprints, then I just may be on board. I even stated the same in behalf of SB 901 on the Senate Floor during the waning hours of this year’s Session (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rEQ9uM7P-o).

For additional history on this matter, here is the journey I’ve had on this topic:

Introduction of SB 1463 in 2016

MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 — March 25, 2016

After numerous committee hearings and three Floor votes, SB 1463 headed to Governor’s Desk

MOORLACH UPDATE — Moving Down the Line — August 31, 2016

Strong editorial in support of reducing wildfires

MOORLACH UPDATE — First Veto — September 24, 2016

Governor’s Veto

MOORLACH UPDATE — First Veto — September 24, 2016

MOORLACH UPDATE — Rejection/Disappointment — September 27, 2016

MOORLACH UPDATE — Thank you, Vin Scully — September 28, 2016

After the Santa Rosa fire, the media noticed my previous efforts

MOORLACH UPDATE — Conflagration Legacy — October 12, 2017

MOORLACH UPDATE — Secretive and Expensive Union Deals — November 3, 2017

MOORLACH UPDATE — Burning Year End Issues — December 15, 2017

Bay Area disappointment in Brown’s veto and the tragic fire

MOORLACH UPDATE — Bonuses and Bogusness — October 21, 2017

Local frustrations over vetoed bill

MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Safety Concerns — October 27, 2017

RCRC acknowledgement

MOORLACH UPDATE — Haven for Hope — January 19, 2018

SB 1463 Redux, with Cap and Trade funding introduced

MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Redux — March 30, 2018

Second SB 1463 killed in committee with my reactions

MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1297 – COO — April 19, 2018

My editorial submission to use Cap and Trade

MOORLACH UPDATE — Reducing Wildfires — July 31, 2018

Efforts to use Cap and Trade funding acknowledged as a potential solution

MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Tornado Funding — August 2, 2018

Other commentators lamenting the lost opportunities with both SB 1463s

MOORLACH UPDATE — Spewing Carbon Into The Air — August 8, 2018

All to show that my office is providing a full portfolio on critical issues facing California, besides pension liabilities and unrestricted net positions. There is so much to do. And, sometimes, the Legislature picks up on an idea that, I believe, makes sense.

How the state — and you —will help PG&E pay for the fires

PGE_WildFire-Work_ENRready

By Dan de la Torre

http://sonomasun.com/2018/10/04/how-the-state-and-you-will-help-pge-pay-for-the-fires/

At the one-year anniversary of the fires which burned nearly 200,000 acres and claimed the lives of over 40 people in Sonoma and Napa counties, the cost of rebuilding is beginning to take shape — as is PG&E’s ultimate responsibility to pay for it.

The bills are still coming in, and lawsuits against the utility pending. But State Senator Bill Dodd, whose district was ravaged by the fires, thinks the figure is about $10 billion. His SB 901, signed into law by Jerry Brown, authorizes that much in bonds.

To back those bonds, every PG&E ratepayer, even those outside the fire area, will now see $50 added to the monthly bill — for at least 20 years. The other $5 billion will come from PG&E itself.

In the immediate aftermath of the fires, blame seemed to be focused solely on PG&E, and the company began a defense on multiple fronts. Because of a legal doctrine known as Inverse Condemnation, PG&E knew that it couldn’t fight any legal battles in court because of the way the language is structured in that particular law.

The law in essence says that even if PG&E did everything it was supposed to regarding maintenance and equipment, as mandated by the state-run California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), it would be liable — no matter what.

With this in mind PG&E began a media campaign to improve its image. It ran ads profiling how the company interacts with the community. It also ran commercials on how much money it spends on overall maintenance, its equipment, and its program to trim tree branches from around power lines. PG&E said it spends $1 billion annually cutting down dead trees and dry brush.

wildfire_powerline

PG&E also blamed climate change as one of the main factors in last year’s fires, something that Governor Jerry Brown has also strongly advocated.

In Sacramento, PG&E lobbied legislators to find a compromise that would allow the company to continue without facing bankruptcy. The legislature and the governor went back and forth with a number or proposals before settling on SB 901. The chief architect of this bill was state Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa).

The Sun recently interviewed both Dodd and Senator John Moorlach (R- Orange County) to get an overview of the bill.

According to both Senators, the 100-plus-page bill addresses the issue on several fronts. A) It makes it easier for PG&E to engage in forest management including tree cutting and disposal of dead wood and dry brush caused by the recent drought. B) Working alongside the CPUC, PG&E will begin the preliminary process of designing underground power lines. C) A financial “stress test” will be conducted to determine how much PG&E can pay without causing it to go into bankruptcy and cause its stockholders, many which are elderly and depend on a limited return from these stocks, to continue to invest.

Senator Dodd suggested that SB 901 will allocate approximately $10 billion in the form of bonds that will immediately be available to plaintiffs suing PG&E. For their part, ratepayers will be assessed that $50 monthly surcharge.

With over 200 individual lawsuits and virtually every city, county and municipality affected by the fires engaging in their own lawsuits, the assumption from Senator Dodd is that $10 billion will be enough to cover all costs.

But it does not address overruns, and it is far from exact.

One of the cities suing PG&E is Santa Rosa. “Honesty I don’t know, as the city is still assessing how much damage the fires caused so at this point there is no price tag,” Assistant City Attorney Adam Abel told The Sun.

To complicate state budget matters, SB 901 does not address claims in connection with lasts year’s devastating fires in Southern California. Or more recent fires in Redding and beyond.

As noted, all PG&E customers will chip in with that monthly $50 fee — no matter where they live.

Diana and Doug Gill, visiting Sonoma from Livermore recently, say the situation is frustrating. They understand that someone has to pay for the overall costs but are demanding more answers. Diana questioned not just the cost of the fire but the cause, as she doesn’t believe that a fire could have spread as rapidly as it did. Like many, she questions if there is a missing element that hasn’t been made public.

SB 901 was signed into law on Friday, September 21. Brown, whose term is ending this year, has said that long, epic fire seasons will be the new normal in California. How to pay for them remains the question.

A plausible possibility is a bill that didn’t pass, but could come back in the next session. AB 33, introduced by East Bay Assemblyman Dr. Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), would have also issued a series of bonds to expedite payments, but had no ceiling price cap. The bill would authorize as many bonds as needed — $50 billion or more was a number mentioned by Quirk’s office.

That figure may have been too high for an election year, but the 2019 legislature might reconsider such an option when the costs of fighting more recent fire disasters come due.

 

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Governor Brown vetoes Moorlach Judicial Pension Reform SB 656

http://www.oc-breeze.com/2018/10/01/128123_governor-brown-vetoes-moorlach-judicial-pension-reform-sb-656/

I am disappointed that Gov. Jerry Brown today vetoed Senate Bill 656, which I authored. At a minimal cost, it would have made key changes to the retirement system of the pensions of California judges, encouraging our best lawyers to seek these positions, and our best judges to stay in them. More than 800 California Superior Court Judges signed on in support of SB 656, as comparable retirement incentives for all state employees was a fair and just modification to make. And providing the appropriate benefits ensures judicial quality and integrity, which are essential to our democracy.

Specifically, SB 656 would have authorized a judge, who is not otherwise eligible to retire with a monthly allowance, to retire and receive the annuity at a later date upon reaching the prescribed retirement age. It would have permitted those judges who face difficult personal circumstances in their later years, such as caring for an ailing spouse, to leave office with the promise of later taking the retirement they worked so hard to achieve.

That means the current system is retained. Under it, if a judge must leave office early, he or she must take a lump sum payment instead of retirement annuity, a reduction in benefits that discourages the best from seeking and accepting these posts.

I want to thank my staff, who worked on this bill for two years, for all of their hard work. I also want to thank the staff at the California Public Employees Retirement System for their assistance in drafting the language. Most importantly, I want to thank the majority of California’s Superior Court judges who took the time to encourage us in this endeavor.

This year Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law two of my three bills that reached his desk. I want to thank him for those he signed. But, I believe that SB 656 is so critical to the morale of our judicial colleagues, that I am considering reintroducing this necessary solution again next year under the next governor.

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

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Spewing Carbon Into The Air — August 8, 2018

The air quality in Sacramento continues to be awful, with the heavy smoke in the area caused by fires in Northern California. Consequently, the media attention to this tragic state of events and addressing it in the future continues.

My 2016 bill, SB 1463, started with a simple request from within my District from Laguna Beach. It enjoyed a healthy review by committees in both chambers and never received a vote of opposition. But, it was vetoed by Governor Brown. So, we did another SB 1463 this year (using the number again on an intentional basis).

Katy Grimes of the FlashReport covers it in the piece below. Which prompts me to provide the substantive UPDATEs covering both bills over the last three years, in reverse date order. For a couple of them, I provide my frustrations expressed in the postings, as I know you can’t possibly link to them all (but, the evidence is here that shows my diligence to this critical topic):

MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Tornado Funding — August 2, 2018

MOORLACH UPDATE — Reducing Wildfires — July 31, 2018

MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1297 – COO — April 19, 2018

Let the record show that I tried to address the global warming concerns with SB 1463. I would conclude that the state’s efforts to truly address greenhouse gases are, at best, a joke, and at worst, a fraud. Not including the greenhouse gases generated by wildfires and not approving the provision of a simple way to address the hardening of electrical power lines is, in my opinion, legislative malpractice by the majority party.

MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Redux — March 30, 2018

MOORLACH UPDATE — Haven for Hope — January 19, 2018

MOORLACH UPDATE — Burning Year End Issues — December 15, 2017

A few days of wildfires generate as much in greenhouse gases as all of the cars in California operating for an entire year. [Governor Brown’s] not addressing the real root causes of “climate change” makes him look like a flimflam man. Consequently, I’ll try to help him out in his last year of office by crafting legislation that directs cap and trade tax revenues towards addressing the state’s aging and vulnerable utilities infrastructure and electrical power distribution.

With more than 40 casualties, most of them 70 years of age or older who could not flee, this state needs to get serious about reducing wildfires. Blaming climate change is embarrassing and it’s a misdirection of the most disingenuous type.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Secretive and Expensive Union Deals — November 3, 2017

MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Safety Concerns — October 27, 2017

MOORLACH UPDATE — Bonuses and Bogusness — October 21, 2017

MOORLACH UPDATE — Conflagration Legacy — October 12, 2017

MOORLACH UPDATE — Governor’s 2017-18 Proposed Budget — January 11, 2017

MOORLACH UPDATE — Thank you, Vin Scully — September 28, 2016

MOORLACH UPDATE — Rejection/Disappointment — September 27, 2016

MOORLACH UPDATE — First Veto — September 24, 2016

MOORLACH UPDATE — Moving Down the Line — August 31, 2016

MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 — March 25, 2016

Not to belabor this topic, but CalMatters is back with a piece on this topic in “As California burns, climate goals may go up in smoke–even after the flames are out,” by Julie Cart (see https://calmatters.org/articles/as-california-burns-climate-goals-may-go-up-in-smoke-even-after-the-flames-are-out/). Here are the opening paragraphs:

As crews across California battle more than a dozen wildfires—including the largest in state history—the blazes are spewing enough carbon into the air to undo some of the good done by the state’s climate policies.

What’s even worse: Climate-warming compounds that will be released by the charred forests long after the fires are extinguished may do more to warm up the planet than the immediate harm from smoky air.

Scientists say that only about 15 percent of a forest’s store of carbon is expelled during burns. The remainder is released slowly over the coming years and decades, as trees decay.

That second hit of carbon, experts say, contains compounds that do more to accelerate climate change than those from the original fire. And future fires over previously burned ground could make climate prospects even more bleak.

“The worst possible situation is the fire that comes through and kills everything,” said Nic Enstice, regional science coordinator for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. “Then, ten or fifteen years later, another fire comes through and releases all the carbon left in the trees on the ground. That’s really bad.”

It’s a scenario that could explode at any time. Enstice cited a research paper published this year that laid out a chilling tableau: California has more than a 120 million dead trees strewn around its mountain ranges, with the southern Sierra hardest hit.

When fires hit those downed trees, the state will begin to experience “mass fires” spewing plumes of carbon. The resulting conflagrations, according to the researcher, will be almost unimaginable.

“The emissions from those fires will be unlike anything we will have ever seen,” Enstice said. “And you won’t be able put it out.”

And today’s The Wall Street Journal opines in “Fire and Water in California” (see https://www.wsj.com/articles/fire-and-water-in-california-1533683261).

Here are the concluding paragraphs:

Another challenge is state politicians who’d rather spend money on green pork. This year the Democratic legislature appropriated a mere $30 million of cap-and-trade revenues for fuel reductions on 60,000 acres of forest land. They allocated $335 million for electric vehicle subsidies. Democrats have also spent billions on high-speed rail, but only this year did they get around to appropriating $101 million to replace a dozen or so Vietnam War-era helicopters unequipped with modern technology that enables night-flying for fire-fighting.

Imagine the damage that could have been averted—and lives saved—if the state had replaced the antiques earlier and cleared millions of dead trees in lieu of building the train whose costs are careening toward $100 billion and may never be finished. But instead of examining their own priorities, the state’s politicians will blame the damaging fires on climate change and Donald Trump.

Katy Grimes

CA Gov. Jerry Brown Vetoed Bipartisan Wildfire Management Bill in 2016

Posted by Katy Grimes

http://www.flashreport.org/blog/2018/08/08/ca-gov-jerry-brown-vetoed-bipartisan-wildfire-management-bill-in-2016/

Last year, as all Hell was breaking loose in California as residents were burned out of their homes, neighborhoods and businesses, Gov. Jerry Brown was jetting around the world spouting climate change propaganda, and calling this California’s ‘new normal.’

grimes101017

“With climate change, some scientists are saying Southern California is literally burning up, and burning up as maybe a metaphor or a description not just to the fires right here, but what we can expect over the next years and decades,” Brown said.Today, as California burns once again under torrential wildfires, many Californians have been asking why the dramatic increase in wildfires in the last five years… that is everyone except Governor Jerry Brown. Governor Brown claims that year-round, devastating fires are the “new normal” we must accept.

Megan Barth and I reported Monday:

“Supporting Obama-era regulations have resulted in the new normal: an endless and devastating fire season. Obama-era regulations introduced excessive layers of bureaucracy that blocked proper forest management and increased environmentalist litigation and costs– a result of far too many radical environmentalists, bureaucrats, Leftist politicians and judicial activists who would rather let forests burn, than let anyone thin out overgrown trees or let professional loggers harvest usable timber left from beetle infestation, or selectively cut timber.”

Mismanaged, overcrowded forests provide fuel to historic California wildfires, experts say. The 129 million dead trees throughout California’s forests are serving as matchsticks and kindling.

Jerry Brown, busy mulling ways to prevent the end of the world, took the Clinton and Obama-era gross regulations a step even further when he vetoed a bipartisan wildfire management bill in 2016.

At the request of the City Council of Laguna Beach, Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), authored SB 1463 in 2016, a bipartisan bill which would have given local governments more say in fire-prevention efforts through the Public Utilities Commission proceeding making maps of fire hazard areas around utility lines.

Laguna Beach went through four fires sparked by utility lines in the last ten years, and has done as much in the way of prevention as they could afford. The bill would have allowed cities to work with utilities to underground utility lines, and work with the Public Utilities Commission to develop updated fire maps by requiring the PUC to take into consideration areas in which communities are at risk from the consequences of wildfire — not just those areas where certain environmental hazards are present.

Moorlach’s bill came about when on February 2, 2016, the PUC served the final version of Fire Map 1, and the City of Laguna Beach was not placed within the low-risk margins of the Utility Fire Threat Index.

Gov. Brown vetoed SB 1463, despite being passed by the Legislature, 75-0 in the Assembly and 39-0 in the Senate. That tells you this was political. The Governor’s veto message did not properly address why he vetoed the bill. Brown claimed that the PUC and CalFire have already been doing what Moorlach’s bill sought to accomplish. How on earth could Brown kill this bill when the state was burning down?

“SB 1463 would have not only safeguarded Laguna and other high fire-risk communities in Orange County, but would have helped other vulnerable communities throughout the state that are often threatened by wildfires caused by sparks from shorted or fallen utility lines,” Sen. Moorlach said in a statement following the surprise veto. “The Governor’s veto impedes the necessity to more urgently address the California Public Utilities Commission’s focus on identifying high risk areas that should be prioritized for appropriate mitigation measures.”

California fires produced as much pollution in 2 days as all the state’s cars do in a year.

After SB 1463 was killed by Gov. Brown, Sen. Moorlach and his brilliant staff had an epiphany: Redirect the state’s accumulated cap-and-trade funds into wildfire prevention.

Authored in 2018, the new Senate Bill 1463, aptly named “Cap and Trees,” would continuously appropriate 25 percent of state cap-and-trade funds to counties to harden the state’s utility infrastructure and better manage wildlands and our overgrown and drought-weakened forests, Moorlach recently wrote in a San Francisco Chronicle op ed.

The idea was to actually reduce the state’s highest source of greenhouse gas emissions, curb the impacts of future wildfires and prevent unnecessary damage to life and property, the new SB 1463 fact sheet reported.

However, SB 1463 was killed in the radical Senate Environmental Quality Committee by Democrats, even though there was no opposition to it. The killing was purely political, with no regard given to the people of the state.

Cap and Trade was a scheme born out of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, known as AB 32, which charged the California Air Resources Board with lowering greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. In addition, AB 32 requires the ARB to inventory GHG emissions in California, and approve statewide GHG emissions limits.

As important, Sen. Moorlach’s second version of SB 1463 would also have required the California Air Resources Board to include greenhouse gas emissions from wildland and forest fires in their updated Scoping Plan. The ARB does not actually track GHGs – they just estimate. The ARB is extorting millions of dollars from California businesses on their best guesses.

It is estimated that “for every 2 to 3 days these wildfires burn, GHG emissions are roughly equal to the annual emissions from every car in the entire state of California,” USA Today/Reno Gazette reported in 2017. Last year, there were more than 9,000 major wildfires which burned over 1.2 million acres. Several of the large fires were caused or exacerbated by sparking utility lines.

The problem is that the Air Resources Board Scoping Plan ignores the most egregious of all GHG emission problems – manmade wildfires. Instead, the ARB spends a substantial amount of cap and trade funds on high-speed rail, which literally increases GHG emissions and eliminates large carbon sinks. The ARB has a history of diverting funds to pet projects and programs that have little or nothing to do with actually reducing GHG emissions.

The Senate Environmental Quality Committee, responsible for killing Moorlach’s SB 1463, has a radical environmentalist/preservationist as the committee consultant. In the only bill analysis done on SB 1463, this is the drivel she wrote:

“…natural disasters that emit GHGs (such as wildfires) occurred before climate change, will continue to occur as the climate continues to change, and will persist even if mankind ultimately solves the problem of climate change.”

“While science can now conclusively attribute individual extreme events to climate change, it is important to distinguish that extreme events like the recent wildfires in California are a symptom of climate change, not the cause.”

“The overwhelming consensus of climate scientists is that climate change is anthropogenic, meaning human activity has caused the rising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere and, therefore, increasing average global temperatures and the extreme events climate change causes.”

“To include GHG emissions from natural disasters in the state’s inventory that tracks progress towards California’s climate goals, even ones that are made worse by climate change, betrays the fundamental scientific understanding that human activity is responsible for climate change.” (Her emphasis, not mine) 04/19/18- Senate Environmental Quality

Jerry Brown’s Exploitation of California Events

“There is no hope for the truth when world leaders like Governor Brown of California (he runs the 19th largest economy in the world) can present such utterly false information in pursuit of a political agenda,” Dr. Tim Ball wrote about Brown’s recent screed on the fires:

“Since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven’t had this kind of heat condition, and it’s going to continue getting worse and that’s the way it is.” — Jerry Brown

“Civilization began more than 10,000 years ago and, in my opinion, it hasn’t reached California yet,” Dr. Ball added in a guest opinion at Watts Up With That, an outstanding website dedicated to actual science (no emotions) about global warming and climate change.

In his introductory climatology class, Dr. Ball tells his students to “watch for a sequence of events from California. This will begin with complaints about drought and threatened water supplies. In the Fall, we will have stories about fires decimating the landscape and burning up communities. The next in the sequence is rain and mudslides. Welcome to sunny southern California. I don’t recall a year in which that sequence did not occur. The only differences were the intensity of the events, the hysteria of the media and the degree of political exploitation.”

Dr. Ball concluded: “Exploitation of the California events is just another example of the standard ploy of environmentalists to take normal events and present them as abnormal.”

Jerry Brown’s Real Legacy

Remember when Gov. Jerry Brown said the world needs ‘brain washing’ on climate change. Sounding indeed brainwashed, Brown said, “The problem … is us. It’s our whole way of life. It’s our comfort … It’s the greed. It’s the indulgence. It’s the pattern. And it’s the inertia.”

Brown screeched in 2015 that California has an overpopulation problem, and the ongoing drought was proof that the explosion of population in California has reached the limit of what the states’ resources can provide. “We are altering this planet with this incredible power of science, technology and economic advance,” Brown told the publisher of the Los Angeles Times. “If California is going to have 50 million people, they’re not going to live the same way the native people lived, much less the way people do today.… You have to find a more elegant way of relating to material things. You have to use them with greater sensitivity and sophistication.”

Brown has managed to divert the fawning, slobbering California media away from his actual responsibilities as California Governor, and instead has them focused on hysteria, doom, gloom, and intangibles like “climate change.”

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Tornado Funding — August 2, 2018

It is frustrating to provide solutions to obvious problems, like pension liabilities and wildfires, only to have the Democrats vote the bills down in committee.

Regretfully, the wildfires continue in Northern California. I provided a solution with SB 1463 two years ago (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 — March 25, 2016). And a repeat version, with funding from an existing revenue stream this year (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Reducing Wildfires — July 31, 2018).

So, we can at least claim that a Republican tried to get in front of the wildfire and legitimate greenhouse gas concerns with a reasonable solution. There are billions of dollars in the cap and trade fund that can easily be reassigned from other projects that aren’t priorities to the state right now and are going to projects like the high-speed rail. The Governor has $621 million dollars annually to reduce greenhouse gases and wildfires in a productive way.

With that, you won’t see me surprised about fire tornadoes. The Napa Valley Register, a sister publication of The Sacramento Bee, provides the latest on the tragic events occurring around the state in the piece below.

‘No one expected a fire tornado.’ Jerry Brown says wildfires are going to get expensive.

By Angela Hart And Taryn Luna

https://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/no-one-expected-a-fire-tornado-jerry-brown-says-wildfires/article_141470a2-f646-5ddc-886c-4acc4e013bcb.html

At least six people dead. More than 1,000 homes leveled and another 17,000 under threat. Nearly 13,000 firefighters, from as far away as Florida and Maine to Australia and New Zealand, battling ferocious wildfires burning across California.

California firefighters and emergency responders are being pummeled by increasingly extreme and unpredictable wildfires, as the state’s climate becomes hotter and the land grows drier.

“The need to protect these communities…is requiring more firefighters, more resources all the time,” said Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott, in an interview. “Fire is a way of life in California. It’s not going away, so we have to learn to live with it.”

The deadly blazes, in Sonoma County in 2017 and in Shasta County this summer, are prompting urgent calls for a major change of course in how California prepares for and responds to wildfires. State lawmakers, fire officials and both candidates for governor say if the state doesn’t act, conditions will worsen in years to come. More people will die, more homes will be lost and large swaths of pristine forestland will be wiped out, they fear.

“We’re in for a really rough ride,” Gov. Jerry Brown said at a news conference Wednesday in Sacramento. “It’s going to get expensive, it’s going to get dangerous, and we have to apply all our creativity to make the best of what is going to be an increasingly bad situation.”

Officials are beginning to undertake a broad, more ambitious prevention strategy that includes aggressively thinning out thick forests in rural, rugged parts of the state, increasing state funding for firefighters, training and equipment, incorporating into firefighter training new methods for battling unpredictable, wind-driven fires and working with local governments to update land use plans and building codes that discourage development in fire-prone areas or call for more safety measures.

“The risks are much bigger than what we may have traditionally thought of,” Pimlott said. “These are literally 100, 150-foot flame lengths…there’s no way we’re going to stop that kind of a fire, so we are changing tactics.”

Pimlott said the key priority is protecting life and property.

“We’re going to make every effort to protect these communities, to get people evacuated, but what it means is we may not be able to put a bulldozer or firefighter or engine company down in front of that fire,” he said. “We use roads, we use ridge tops, we use geographic features where we can have a much higher probability of success.”

It’s also about finding money to hire firefighters and purchase equipment, fire officials and lawmakers said.

“We have a limited number of resources,” Pimlott said. “You always want more… California, even now, has become very good at organizing limited resources and identifying priorities.”

Since the fiscal year began July 1, Cal Fire has already spent $115 million of the $443 million allocated in this year’s budget for fighting wildfires, and the state is on track exceed the current budget if wildfires intensify. The worst fires tend to occur in late fall and early winter.

During last year’s fires, the state spent $773 million, far more than the $427 million initially approved.

Brown said Wednesday that the state will spend what it must to attack the fires.

“There is money in this year’s budget,” he said. “In a year or slightly longer, that money will start to diminish… Things will get much tighter in the next five years as the business cycle turns negative and the fires continue.”

He suggested California has been caught off-guard by the current demands.

“No one expected a fire tornado,” Brown said. “We’re getting a new phenomenon and that new phenomenon is we’re in a new climate weather era and so we have to learn.”

Brown since 2015 has directed more than $800 million in one-time budget funds for fire prevention, including the removal of dead trees and other vegetation that fuel fires.

In May he outlined in an executive order a $96 million plan to expand vegetation thinning, controlled fires and reforestation on up to 500,000 acres of land. He also spent $160 million in cap-and-trade revenue to support forest improvements and fire protection.

The plan also seeks to make it easier for private landowners to thin vegetation on their properties by streamlining the approvals process for permits needed to do so.

Some say the state’s efforts to date don’t go far enough.

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox blasted state lawmakers for not adequately funding fire prevention. He downplayed concerns voiced by his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Brown, about climate change and the increasing threat of disastrous wildfires.

Cox, who toured the fire zone in Shasta County this week with Republican lawmakers, said “I don’t know,” if climate change is human-caused.

“Politicians like Mr. Brown and Mr. Newsom are distracting people,” Cox said. “What’s really going on here is they’re blaming this on climate change to cover up for the fact that they haven’t devoted the time and the resources and the planning to actually doing something about forestry management.”

Cox also backs the thinning of forests, saying the state should be investing in “fire breaks, controlled burns, and clearing out dead and diseased trees.”

He said the state also needs to invest more heavily on boosting the ranks of firefighters, training and equipment.

“We’re going to find the money, believe me,” Cox said.

Newsom spokesman Nathan Click said “Cox’s Trumpian climate change denials, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, only undermine what little credibility remains in his campaign.”

Newsom outlined a detailed approach for how he’d address the looming wildfire threat to California. He said the state must improve vegetation management, boost funding for fire prevention and containment, bolster resources for fire departments across the state, invest in weather monitoring technology and a statewide early warning system and more aggressively lower greenhouse gas emissions to put the state on a path to 100 percent renewable energy.

“The science is clear — increased fire threat due to climate change is becoming a fact of life in our state,” Newsom said in a statement. “We need a comprehensive strategy and more resources to address this growing crisis.”

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Dahle, a Republican from Lassen County, and Assemblyman Jim Wood, a Democrat from Sonoma County, are pushing, as part of the state’s broader efforts, legislation easing regulations and allowing greater thinning of trees, grasses and other vegetation from thick forests that allow wildfires to spread so quickly.

“By not doing that, we’re burning down our forests,” Dahle said. “We know if we don’t do anything, it’s going to burn.”

Wood said it needs to be done on a “large scale,” with ongoing state money. He also floated the idea of greater state investment in an early fire detection system.

“I firmly believe, as I know Brian does, that we need to invest more in reducing the fuel load,” Wood said. “I think it’s long overdue and it’s going to take a sustained, long-term investment.”

Dahle voiced support for ideas being floated by other lawmakers to redirect a larger share of state cap-and-trade money into wildfire prevention.

“I think there’s a lot better places we could spend our greenhouse gas monies,” he said, noting a proposal from state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, to dedicate a quarter of the state’s cap-and-trade funds to pay for power utility infrastructure upgrades and forest management to help reduce the threat of wildfires.

“We still need to fund firefighters and tankers and helicopters,” Dahle said. “But we also need to take the smallest trees out. If you thin out the canopy, fires burn slower and not as intensely.”

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Reducing Wildfires — July 31, 2018

You can see the smoky haze in the Northern California area. Everything has a brown tinge from the sunlight. The area is literally covered in smoke. Some blame climate change. I blame poor public land management, cost cutting on electric transmission lines, and misdirected state budget spending.

This state must get out of this tragic haze and think more clearly about addressing wildfires. Otherwise, Sacramento’s previous efforts to address greenhouse gases are insincere and just more showmanship. Simply put, previous leadership efforts have been smoke and mist. With more residents tragically losing their lives in the past few days, it’s time for a turnaround in thinking at the Capitol.

I dare to propose three recommendations in the San Francisco Chronicle piece provided below.

3 practical steps to reduce wildfires in California

By John Moorlach

https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/3-practical-steps-to-reduce-wildfires-in-california/ar-BBLhBHh

A single forest fire can release four or five times as much greenhouse gas than are reduced by a year’s worth of government-regulated industry and personal vehicles emission. Oddly, the California Air Resources Board doesn’t even count wildfire greenhouse gases in its carbon-reduction reports.

So if we want to get serious about reducing greenhouses gases, we’re going to need to take some bold steps to prevent out-of-control wildfires.

Are there actions we can take beside the usual precautions such as clearing flammable underbrush and planning for an evacuation? Yes.

1. We should revisit Senate Bill 1463, which I authored in 2018 but was killed in committee even though no one testified in opposition to it. Called “Cap and Trees,” it would continuously appropriate 25 percent of state cap-and-trade funds to counties to harden the state’s utility infrastructure and better manage wildlands and our overgrown and drought-weakened forests.

Although the new fires’ origins still are being investigated, both of last year’s major wildfires were caused at least in part by collapsing power lines whose sparks sent off blazes. Further, the bill required the Air Resources Board to include greenhouse gas emissions from wildland and forest fires in its updated scoping plan.

2. We should stop funding the high-speed rail project with cap-and-trade dollars — $621 million this year, according to the analysis of the fiscal 2018-19 budget by the Legislative Analyst’s Office — and divert it to protecting our forests. This makes sense as the construction of high-speed rail is also producing enormous quantities of greenhouse gases.

Doing so would be a “three-fer”: We’d stop sinking good money after bad; we’d manage our forests better, saving lives and property; and we’d actually make a serious dent in reducing greenhouse gases.

Some of this may involve prescribed burns in our forests, as authored this year in Senate Bill 1260 by my Democratic colleague, Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara. Because the forests are going to burn anyway, we’re much better off reducing the fuel load safely. Prescribed burns, where fires are purposely set when humidity and temperatures limit damage, are the primary tool to use.

3. Where such burns are impractical, such as around homes and developed property, we can employ mechanical thinning. The mechanically harvested shrubs and saplings can be used for construction materials, thus sequestering carbon, and act as fuel for biomass power plants.

Unfortunately, decades of restrictive preservationist policy — letting the forests grow unfettered with little to no management — have devastated local economies and shuttered many of our mills and biomass energy plants. State policies should encourage a balanced vegetation management regime to foster the requisite institutional know-how and tools to proactively deal with these fire-prone areas.

As with so many problems in this state, solutions exist, but are being shunned due to misconceptions or political ideology. Until we pass and implement real solutions, the state will continue to burn.

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, represents portions of Orange County.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Right to Peaceably Assemble — April 13, 2018

I have a diversified portfolio of bills that we have introduced for consideration, as you can see on my website at  http://district37.cssrc.us/legislation.

I also have the opportunity to be a co-author on a number of bills.  And, on rare occasions, I’m even a joint-author.  This was the case for SB 1004 (Weiner), which will establish a strategic, statewide focus for how counties utilize funds generated by the Mental Health Services Act for prevention and intervention in the early stages of mental illness (see http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1004).

I testified on behalf of SB 1004 this past week, along with Sacramento Mayor and former State Senator pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, an author of Proposition 63 (2004), in Senate Health Committee, where it passed unanimously.  On the subject of the Mental Health Services Act, which has become a major focus of my time over the years, I was appointed to the Senate Select Committee on Mental Health during Wednesday’s Senate Rules Committee meeting.

The LA Times discusses another bill of mine in the piece below, SB 1099, the Right to Peaceably Assemble.  Last October, the Senate Judiciary Committee, where I serve as Vice Chair, held a hearing on hate speech, which spurred several ideas (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Combatting Hate — October 3, 2017MOORLACH UPDATE — Elephant in the Room — October 4, 2017 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Showmanship Let Down — October 7, 2017).

After considering a number of responses to the nonsense that had recently occurred at the University of California Berkeley, I thought the city of Los Angeles had the best response, so I am trying to duplicate it on a statewide basis.

I also wish to thank University of California, Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman for providing me with a copy of his new book, “Free Speech On Campus,” which he co-authored with University of California, Berkeley Law School, and former University of California, Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky (see https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300226560/free-speech-campus).

Now that I finally have an article that addresses one of my bills, allow me to give you an update on our portfolio.  Here is a follow up on the calendar that I provided in MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Redux — March 30, 2018.

April 2 — SB 1159 – CPA Designation
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1159-cpa-designation)
Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee

Although this bill was referred to as self-serving, it still passed out of Committee with 6 votes, 2 opposed and 1 abstention.

April 4 — SB 1368 – Statewide Open Enrollment
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1368-statewide-open-enrollment
Senate Education Committee

This bill was killed on a partisan vote of 2 to 4.

April 4 — SB 1344 and SCA 16 – Education Savings Account Act of 2020
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1344-senate-constitutional-amendment-16-education-savings-account-act-2020
Senate Education Committee
NOTE: Please watch the two short videos on this subject at the link.

Both bills were killed on a partisan vote of 2 to 4.

April 4 — SB 1363 – National Alliance on Mental Illness California Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1363-national-alliance-mental-illness-california-voluntary-tax-contribution-fund
Senate Governance and Finance Committee

Although I was tied up presenting the above 3 bills in Education Committee, Sen. Nguyen kindly presented this bill, with a big assist from Sen. Beall, and it moved forward with 6 votes and 1 abstention.  It will be heard by Senate Appropriations on Monday morning, April 16th.

This week, I only had SB 1004, discussed above.  Next week I will also present the following two bills:

April 18 — SB 1463 — Cap and Trees

See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1463-cap-and-trees

Senate Environmental Quality Committee

April 18 — SB 1325 — Peaceful and Natural Dignity Act (PANDA)

See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1325-peaceful-and-natural-dignity-act-panda

Senate Health Committee

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By PATRICK MCGREEVY

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-california-legislature-campus-free-speech-20180413-story.html

Last year’s bloody clashes on California college campuses have spawned a battle in the state Legislature over how far the law should go to protect unpopular speech and prevent violence between those with opposing political views.

In recent weeks, legislators have started to act on bills introduced in response to a series of confrontations, including a melee at UC Berkeley over a proposed campus speech by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

Lawmakers and activists have fought over a wide range of proposals, many introduced by Republicans who say conservative speech is being vetoed by violence on California campuses.

Similar debates are happening in statehouses across the U.S., with many Democrats concerned that neo-Nazis and other purveyors of hate speech are instigating conflict, citing violence in Charlottesville, Va., last summer when white nationalists marched across the University of Virginia campus, and a far-right rally the following day that turned fatal.

California’s Democratic majority has scuttled bills including one that would have disciplined students who interfere with speeches, or withheld funds from campuses that don’t take steps to protect controversial speaking events.

“Freedom of speech is not free in California — it comes with a price,” Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) said in a statement after the Democrats voted down her penalty bill. “As long as you say what government wants to hear, they’ll protect your right to speak.”

Another sidelined bill would have made it a crime to wear masks or disguises to demonstrations, but opponents said it could be used to quash free speech. Other measures, including legislation modeled on a Los Angeles antiviolence ordinance, are expected to be taken up in the next few weeks.

But stronger bipartisan consensus has emerged around a bill that would require state colleges to affirm in formal statements the importance of freedom of expression, and to set the stage for student instruction on the history and value of the First Amendment.

“When you have everyone with a deeper appreciation for why we need to have a free exchange of ideas, then people will be less inclined to take action against ideas that they find repugnant or wrong,” said Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), who coauthored the bill with Democratic Assemblyman Bill Quirk of Hayward.

In all, nine bills were introduced in response to incidents including the February 2017 riot at UC Berkeley in which 150 protesters, many masked agitators, caused some $100,000 in damage and injured several people there to attend Yiannopoulos’ speech, which was canceled.

The anti-Yiannopoulos protesters, who accused him of hate speech, hurled Molotov cocktails, set fires, threw fireworks at police and smashed windows using barricades, according to authorities. Many wore face coverings to hide their identity.

Clashes in later months resulted in the cancellation of an appearance on campus by conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

And in April of last year, an off-campus event billed as a “Patriot Day” rally by far-right, pro-Trump activists resulted in 21 arrests after fights broke out with counterprotesters. The Times reported both sides threw rocks and sticks at one another.

Naweed Tahmas, a leader of the UC Berkeley College Republicans, testified at one of a series of legislative hearings held in recent weeks that he has been chased, threatened, punched and spat on by people on campus who disagree with his political views.

“I am not exaggerating when I say that free speech is on life support at UC Berkeley,” Tahmas told legislators. “I do not feel safe on my own campus.”

Nobody from the public testified against the bill, but Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk Silva (D-Fullerton) disputed the claims of supporters.

“Where I would disagree is, unlike some of your information for Berkeley, I think free speech is alive and well,” she said, noting that Yiannopoulos spoke at Cal State Fullerton in her district and there was no violence because steps were taken to keep protesters apart.

A federal lawsuit alleges that Katrina Redelsheimer and her husband, John Jennings, went to UC Berkeley last year to hear Yiannopoulos and were attacked by a crowd of black-clad anarchists who beat the couple with sticks, kicked them and doused them with pepper spray.

“I thought that my husband was dead,” Redelsheimer said this month, recalling the sight of her husband lying unconscious on the ground.

The lawsuit charges that the UC administrators and police violated the couple’s civil rights by failing to protect them, “permitting hordes of rioters to swarm the University campus in a violent rage.”

UC administrator Karen French told lawmakers during a hearing last week that free-speech rights are a priority for the universities, but that restrictions on public events are sometimes warranted when student safety is at risk.

The Kiley-Quirk measure has been endorsed by the 13 Democrats and Republicans who make up the Assembly Committee on Higher Education. The measure was drafted with input from Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley School of Law, and Howard Gillman, chancellor of UC Irvine.

The instruction on the importance of the First Amendment can happen in classrooms, at student orientations or in other venues, according to the bill. Supporters say its aim is to strike a balance that avoids punishing schools or students.

“Through educational programming, universities can help foster an appreciation for the history and value of free speech, and why it is essential to democratic government and academic freedom,” Chemerinsky said.

Another legislative committee recommended a measure by state Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) that would require the California Community Colleges and California State University systems to adopt “free expression” policies that end the practice of limiting speeches and literature distribution to small, remote “free speech zones” on campuses.

Instead, the bill would require larger outdoor areas on campuses to be designated for public discourse, including allowing students to “spontaneously and contemporaneously distribute literature and assemble.”

The rejected Melendez bill would have gone much further by allowing the state to withhold funding from campuses that fail to comply with a statewide policy on free speech.

The legislation would have also prohibited university administrators from disinviting speakers who students have invited to events, and created disciplinary actions for students who interfere with the free-speech rights of others.

Opponents were concerned that the bill’s proposal to allow funds to be withheld from campuses deemed out of compliance could result in the disruption of thousands of students’ college educations.

Jose Medina (D-Riverside), chairman of the Committee on Higher Education, said the proposal was “too prescriptive, and I believe if enacted it would result in unintended consequences.”

That drew rebukes from Melendez and Tahmas, who charged that Democrats “failed in their duty to protect the constitutional rights of California’s students.”

Tension rose again this week when a Senate panel rejected a Republican bill that would have made it a crime to wear a mask or disguise to public demonstrations.

Nielsen told colleagues that he introduced the bill out of alarm that law enforcement did not act more aggressively in stopping violence at UC Berkeley.

A representative of the ACLU of California said that there is no need for Nielsen’s bill because the law already makes it illegal to wear a mask during the commission of a crime, adding that allowing police to arrest masked persons not committing a crime could lead to disparate treatment based on the message of the demonstrator.

Still awaiting a vote are measures including a bill by state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) modeled after a Los Angeles ordinance that makes it a crime to carry sticks, rocks, baseball bats, glass bottles, guns, knives and pepper spray at public demonstrations.

“I just think you don’t need a two-by-four or a lead pipe to hold up a sign,” Moorlach said. “We’re trying to say you should not be intimidating people and you should not be causing physical harm to people, nor should you be destroying property that belongs to the state of California.”

Redelsheimer is skeptical of the flurry of legislative activity in Sacramento.

“State-funded institutions are already required to abide by the First Amendment,” she said. “Attacking people with sticks and pepper spray is similarly already illegal. As usual, what we need is the will to abide by and enforce existing law rather than create new legislation.”

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

 

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MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Redux — March 30, 2018

Allow me to wish you a solemn Good Friday.

The first piece below in CalMatters was hinted at in yesterday’s UPDATE (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Press Release — March 29, 2018) .

CalMatters has done a lengthy analysis on the condition of the state’s forests. The status is not good. Government does not manage forests well. In fact, when I sat on the County’s retirement board, it owned hundreds of acres of timberland. None of it was next to or near a federal or state forest. And that was intentional.

I was happy to comment for the piece by calling out the utter hypocrisy of our Governor’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. I participated in a recent Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee Hearing on the condition of the state’s forests. I called out the Governor’s blind spot there, so I did it again (see
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hARsdtnpEFY).

I tried to address this with SB 1463 (2016), which is the only bill that I have ever had vetoed by a Governor over the more than two decades that I’ve been in this industry (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Secretive and Expensive Union Deals — November 3, 2017 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Safety Concerns — October 27, 2017.

It’s painful to try and address a matter, have it pooh-poohed, and then watch as 44 people are killed by a fire started by electric lines in Sonoma and Napa counties. I have been here before; trying to prevent major tragedies is what I do.

This year, I’m bringing SB 1463 back (see http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1463-cap-and-trees). But, with a twist. Use Cap and Trade Tax revenues to harden utility lines, like those that run directly adjacent to Laguna Canyon Road (133). I mentioned this in the Budget and Fiscal Review Hearing for a reason.

Now that I’m on the subject of my 2018 legislation, next week I present the following bills:

April 2 — SB 1159 – CPA Designation
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1159-cpa-designation)
Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee

April 4 — SB 1368 – Statewide Open Enrollment
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1368-statewide-open-enrollment
Senate Education Committee

April 4 — SB 1344 and SCA 16 – Education Savings Account Act of 2020
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1344-senate-constitutional-amendment-16-education-savings-account-act-2020
Senate Education Committee
NOTE: Please watch the two short videos on this subject at the link.

April 4 — SB 1363 – National Alliance on Mental Illness California Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1363-national-alliance-mental-illness-california-voluntary-tax-contribution-fund
Senate Governance and Finance Committee

It has been a very busy Easter Break here in the District. As you can imagine, I had a rather packed calendar and plenty of preparation to do for next week. The homeless discussion that Judge Carter has forced on many communities and their elected leaders has really shaken up the OC. And the family fighting has not been pretty or pleasant. Consequently, there are two follow up articles on this subject. They are in the Daily Pilot and the Voice of OC in the second and third paraphrased pieces below; since you’ve read enough this week (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Communication — March 28, 2018 march 28, 2018 john moorlach).

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California fights wildfires aggressively—but prevention takes a back seat

By Julie Cart

https://calmatters.org/articles/california-fights-wildfires-aggressively-but-prevention-takes-a-back-seat/

Dave Kinateder has a keen eye for trees. But when Kinateder, a fire ecologist in the Plumas National Forest, surveys a hillside lush with pines, he doesn’t see abundance or the glory of nature’s bounty.

He sees a disaster-in-waiting.

“It’s a ticking time bomb,” he said, gazing across the dense, green carpet of trees near Quincy, a small community high in the northern Sierra Nevada.

Last year’s wildfires, the worst in modern California history, have put a microscope on the forests that cover a third of the state–in particular, on managing these wooded lands in ways that would reduce the frequency and intensity of such blazes.

California is grappling with the counterintuitive dilemma of too many trees, packed too closely together, robbed of the space they need to thrive—and with how to clear out more than 100 million dead trees, felled by drought or insects, that provide tinder for the next infernos.

Curing these unhealthy forests is both difficult and expensive, and as with human health, prevention is far less costly than treatment. But these days the state firefighting agency, Cal Fire, spends the bulk of its resources battling fires rather than practicing preventive measures.

At stake is nothing less than life, property, air quality and the lands that hold most of California’s water. A state commission recently prescribed radical changes to address what it terms the “neglect” of California’s largest forests.

A 19th-century California forest would have held fewer than 50 trees an acre. Today the state’s forests have grown to an unnatural 300 to 500 trees an acre, or more. That doesn’t count the 2 million drought-stressed trees a month lost to bark beetles that have killed entire stands.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who in 2014 declared tree mortality a state of emergency, said in his January State of the State address that California needs to manage its forests more intelligently. He vowed to convene a task force “to review thoroughly the way our forests are managed and suggest ways to reduce the threat of devastating fires.”

California has dozens of agencies attacking problem but still cannot keep up with the work. Crews around the state have been busy clearing trees as fast as funding allows. This wielding of chainsaws they call “whacking and stacking” leaves massive wood piles along highways in some areas. But it amounts to no more than triage: Cal Fire removes trees on fewer than 40,000 acres a year, far short of its goal of clearing a half-million acres annually.

Kinateder estimates that removing trees in this way costs as much as $1,400 an acre. By comparison, controlled burns—those set by fire managers to remove vegetation from forests—is a bargain at less than $150 an acre. Fighting a wildfire comes in at just over $800 an acre, according to the report.

Far from the forest floor, California officials are wrestling with the financial and environmental cost of the state’s forest practices. At a hearing in March in Sacramento, legislators listened to lurid descriptions of raging fire and wrenching stories of human misery recounted by a stream of state and local officials: flames rearing up like an enormous beast, residents running for their lives, neighborhoods leveled, fire burning so hot and for so long that soils were rendered sterile.

California’s troubled forests

33 Million
Number of forested acres in California

129 million
Number of dead trees in California

500,000 Acres
Number of acres Cal Fire* aspires to clear each year

40,000 Acres
Number of acres Cal Fire clears each year

$800
Average cost per acre to fight a fire

$150
Average cost per acre to clear a forest by controlled burn

* California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

Source: Little Hoover Commission report on forest management in California, February 2018

A portion of the proceedings focused on a recent report about wildfires and forest health from the Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight agency that gave its findings to the governor and Legislature in February. The document pulled no punches, calling the state of the Sierra Nevada’s forests “an unprecedented environmental catastrophe.”

It cited a century of “mismanaging” the 10 million wooded acres in the Sierra, calling out state and federal firefighting agencies for their longstanding policy of aggressively putting out all fires rather than letting those that can safely burn do so, thereby thinning the choked woodlands.

Helge Eng, deputy director of Cal Fire, acknowledged the report was “spot on” in its assessment of the state of the Sierra, adding that the analysis “did an especially good job of recognizing that there are no easy, black-and-white answers to the problems we are facing.”

Cal Fire boasts that it stops 95 percent of fires at 10 acres or less, saving lives, property and entire forests from conflagration. Fire experts argue that a negative could be turned into a positive if fire bosses let them burn while still steering them away from people and structures and toward overgrown wildlands in need of clearing.

That’s an approach sometimes used by the National Park Service, but it’s difficult to defend when forests are ablaze, frightening the public and many elected officials alike.

Still, the report said, “it is not enough for agency leaders, scientists and advocates to recognize the benefits of fire as a tool; the bureaucracy of the state government and public sentiment as a whole must undergo a culture shift to embrace fire as a tool for forest health.”

Eng said Cal Fire is considering adopting the managed-burn approach, when appropriate, but noted that federal firefighters are often working in wild settings, away from development.

“Cal Fire’s mission is different; we protect life and property” in areas that may be densely populated, Eng said in a written response to questions. “There is most often not an opportunity to let a fire burn. The risk to human life is just too great.”

The report also detailed a public safety threat from 129 million dead trees, the crushing cost—up to $1,000 a tree—to private property owners to have trees removed from their land and the enormous burden on rural governments to both recover from fire and prepare their forests to mitigate the intensity of the next one. In no uncertain terms, the commission prescribed dramatically ramping up tree-thinning projects and, as awful as the optics are, creating and controlling some fires to achieve the same result.

Eng agreed that the state firefighting agency was far from achieving its “aspirational” goal of clearing a half-million acres of land each year, citing such impediments as “the logistics of capacity of staff and equipment and environmental compliance,” among other factors.

In a moment notable for its rarity in Sacramento, there was bipartisan agreement in the hearing room this month about the problem, its scope and the appropriate measures to deal with it. Focus more intensely on the problem, they agreed, and throw money at it. The state spent $900 million fighting fires last year. Just one of those late-season blazes caused more than $9 billion in reported property damage.

“We’ve made mistakes, and we’ve created systems that are unwieldy….

It’s all of our fault,” Jim Branham, executive officer of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a state agency, told CALmatters. “Money alone won’t solve it, but we won’t solve it without money, either.”

The mosaic of land ownership in California means the state owns only 2 percent of the forests but has legal responsibility over much more: 31 million acres, including land in rural counties.

Cal Fire received more than $200 million for forest health projects last year and has proposed an additional $160 million for the next fiscal year. Those sums are on top of the agency’s current $2.7 billion budget. Cal Fire, in turn, doles out millions of those dollars in grants to local governments and community groups to do some thinning themselves, and it teams with the federal Forest Service to tackle clearing projects.

The work to improve forest health dovetails with other state priorities—protecting water sources and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Sierra Nevada range is the headwaters for 60 percent of California’s developed water supply. Burned, denuded hillsides don’t store water efficiently when it rains. Sediment cascades downhill, filling streams, affecting water quality and loading up reservoirs, reducing their storage capacity

The carbon equation is equally direct: When trees burn or decay, they release greenhouse gases. The 2013 Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park produced emissions equal to those of 2.3 million cars in a year.

Prescribed burns emit less carbon than higher-intensity fires, because managed fire is aimed at smaller trees and shrubs. Cleared forest land may still ignite, but it will burn with less intensity and fewer emissions.

Moreover, when trees die, they stop absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. The state depends on that critical service to help reduce greenhouse gases. Research suggests that severely burned areas regrow with shrubs or grasses, plants that store about 10 percent less carbon than trees do.

John Moorlach, a Republican state senator from Costa Mesa, suggests the Democratic governor, a champion of the fight against climate change, has a “gigantic blind spot” when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. Moorlach said in an interview that Brown’s emphasis on electric cars, for example, ignores the role of fire in California’s greenhouse gas inventory.

“We’re being absolute phonies about climate change if we are not dealing with the real driver of greenhouse gas; that’s these wildfires,” said Moorlach. He has proposed that the state dedicate 25 percent of the revenue from its cap and trade greenhouse-gas-reduction system to help counties’ fire mitigation efforts.

Counties would welcome the help. Randy Hanvelt, a supervisor in Tuolumne County, said that where forest management is concerned, there’s a “leadership problem.”

“Talk is cheap,” he said. “We have got ourselves a giant colossal mess. This is a war of sorts. Time is against us. Every available tool has to be applied.”

One such tool is carefully designed burns. But the meticulous planning necessary can take two to three years, and the burns require favorable weather, a permit from the local air district and, crucially, buy-in from local communities that must first be educated about the benefits. And controlled doesn’t mean risk-free.

“Politically, you have to have the ability to make mistakes and move on,” he said.

Nick Bunch, who plans thinning projects for the Plumas National Forest, pointed to a partly cleared hillside outside of Quincy where one of his extensively planned prescribed burns went awry, undone by a shift in the wind.

“We were about an hour into the burn and the smoke started going into town,” Bunch said, shaking his head at the memory. Even though the burn was going as planned, the smoke was not acceptable to nearby residents, who protested to fire officials. “Phones started ringing. Calls were made, and we shut it down.”

Another method is used in Florida, which trains and certifies private property owners to burn their overgrown land and provides limited liability coverage in some cases. Florida cleared 2.1 million acres this way last year. Scott Stephens, who heads a wildland fire research lab at the University of California, Berkeley, said the widespread adoption of the policy has educated residents on both its benefits and risks.

Back in Plumas County, a hulking building in a parking lot outside a community health complex may offer the final piece of the forest-health puzzle: creating a market for trees removed from California’s forests.

Part of a project managed by the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, the unremarkable square structure shows a potential use for California trees. The building is the state’s first to be fully constructed from cross-laminated timber—layers of wood pressed together to make thick sheets and posts—equal to or greater than the strength of steel.

In addition, the $2.3 million facility will house a large boiler to provide heat for the health center by consuming 500 tons of local wood chips a year.

The project is the brainchild of the institute, which envisions it as a way to boost the economies of forest communities. It’s the kind of innovation the governor and Legislature hoped to promote by establishing a Wood Products Working Group to develop commercial uses for the piles of trees beside the state’s roads.

There’s little left in California today of the early 20th century’s timber cutters, sawmills and biomass industry. If the state follows the Little Hoover Commission’s recommendations and accelerates forest thinning, an entire segment of state industry would need to be rejuvenated.

Meanwhile, officials emphasize the need to educate Californians about the role of forests in the ecosystem.

“If you want people to care about something, they have to understand why it matters,” said Pedro Nava, chairman of the Little Hoover Commission. “They need to understand the deep connection between the health of our state and the state of our forests.”

Branham, of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, said that won’t be easy.

“Some of our messages are counterintuitive: We must cut down healthy living trees to save the forest,” he noted. “It’s a challenge.”

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Costa Mesa council opposes using Fairview Developmental Center as emergency homeless shelter

By LUKE MONEY

http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-cm-fairview-meeting-20180329-story.html

In an interview Thursday, Moorlach said he thought “the City Council overreacted to a press release” and that the idea wasn’t “to put all of the homeless at Fairview.”

“I think there’s a stretch here,” he said. “There’s a hysteria and it’s sad to watch because leadership dictates that you have conversations and you start working on solutions and that’s all that occurred.”

There is no imminent or concrete plan, he added, and any legislative action regarding Fairview would likely take months to move forward.

In the background of all this is U.S. District Judge David Carter, who is presiding over a federal lawsuit that homeless advocates filed in response to the county’s move to clear encampments along the Santa Ana River. Moorlach said the judge has mentioned Fairview during those proceedings.

“I would think the residents of Costa Mesa would rather have the homeless in a facility that’s closed up at night … a place that’s safe and has security, than to have them in their backyard or at their businesses or on their porches,” Moorlach said.

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Costa Mesa Opposes Homeless Shelter at Fairview Mental Facility

By SPENCER CUSTODIO

https://voiceofoc.org/2018/03/costa-mesa-opposes-homeless-shelter-at-fairview-mental-facility/

Moorlach, in a Thursday podcast, criticized Spitzer’s actions over the past few weeks.

“We’re dying in Orange County and Sacramento for good leaders. We don’t need reactors. We need cooler heads. We need people that can control the situation and take the bigger picture and start providing solutions,” Moorlach said.

“It was real interesting to watch, say, Supervisor Spitzer, who is not leading. But he’s certainly reacting, he’s polarizing and he’s creating wedges between communities and leaders. It’s not a pretty picture.”

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 — Haven for Hope — January 19, 2018

Greetings from San Antonio, Texas (Bexar County), where I’m touring the Haven for Hope facilities (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Legislative Efforts — June 29, 2017).

It’s bill introduction season, and The Daily Breeze and Daily Democrat, in the first piece below, provide the details of an effort by Senator Pat Bates, that I endorse. And, it fits in with the reason for my being here in Texas.

The second piece, from the Pinetree Net, provides the details of an award I was presented this week. It’s very humbling and gratifying to be recognized by my former Supervisorial colleagues around the state. I am most appreciative of the relationships that I formed with them over my eight years as an Orange County Supervisor. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Burning Year End Issues — December 15, 2017.

The third piece provides another perspective on the Governor’s proposed budget and is found in the San Gabriel Valley News and the Press Enterprise (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Budget and Legacy Priorities — January 11, 2018 and MOORLACH UPDATE — 2018-2019 Budget Recommendations — January 4, 2018).

Bill aims to plug holes in addiction treatment industry

By tsaavedra,tsforza and sschwebke | Orange County Register

https://www.dailybreeze.com/2018/01/17/bill-aims-to-plug-holes-in-addiction-treatment-industry

http://www.dailydemocrat.com/article/NI/20180118/NEWS/180119848

Outraged by reports of “patient brokering” and neighborhood turmoil, Sen. Pat Bates introduced legislation Wednesday to start addressing dangerous and deadly practices in California’s poorly-regulated addiction treatment industry.

“For more than 20 years, several bipartisan efforts to address the challenges surrounding the state’s drug rehab history have gone nowhere due to opposition from vested interests,” said Bates, R-Laguna Niguel.

“While I’m under no illusion that pursuing greater oversight will be any easier this year, doing nothing is not acceptable for constituents who have contacted me on this issue. The Southern California News Group’s thorough 2017 investigation into the industry makes it clear that reforms are needed.”

SCNG’s probe found that as opioid addiction has soared, unscrupulous rehab operators have rushed in to take advantage of mandatory mental health treatment coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. Broke and homeless heroin addicts are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each in the form of insurance payments, and many are bought, sold and exploited in an underworld rife with kickbacks, drug use and fraud that can end in death.

Addicts around the country are enticed to California with offers of free travel, rent, cigarettes and even manicures, often landing in centers that would not be allowed to open elsewhere. California’s hands-off approach to regulating the industry makes it easy for almost anyone to open a treatment center and charge insurance companies hundreds of thousands of dollars per client, without being required to show evidence that their treatment helps rather than harms. The concentration of facilities is so dense the Los Angeles basin has been dubbed the “Rehab Riviera.”

“Creating substantive and positive change in the drug rehab industry will take time,” Bates said in the statement. “But as a former social worker who once worked in some of our state’s most economically deprived neighborhoods, I take inspiration from Winston Churchill’s mantra of ‘Never, never, never give up.’ And as long as I’m around, I won’t. Stay tuned.”

The bill, SB 902 is still a work-in-progress, she said, with language to be crafted with the help of those involved. She wants to improve patient well-being and increase public safety of neighborhoods hosting rehabs and sober living homes, she said, and aims to stop the industry’s bad actors, not those with strong records of helping people.

In 2016, the Senate Health Committee rejected her SB 1283 that would have allowed a city or county to craft health and safety standards specifically for sober living homes.

In November, a bipartisan group of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee asked California and five other states for information on allegations of patient brokering.

The parents of several young adults who have died in treatment centers have called on Gov. Jerry Brown to lead on this issue. Brown’s office declined to comment on Bates’ push for action.

“Our office does not typically weigh in on pending legislation,” said deputy press secretary Ali Bay by email. “If that changes in this case, I’ll let you know.”

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, represents an area that’s home to one of the densest concentrations of rehabs in the state.

“I will be as supportive as I can be,” said Moorlach. “As with any industry, there are bad players. And they’re the ones that need to be addressed.”

RCRC Installs 2018 Officers and Presents Rural Leadership Awards. TC Supervisor Hanvelt Installed as Vice Chair

http://thepinetree.net/index.php?module=announce&ANN_user_op=view&ANN_id=55325

Sacramento, CA…The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) installed its 2018 Officers and presented its Rural Leadership Awards at their annual reception in Sacramento yesterday. Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn was installed as Chair, Tuolumne County Supervisor Randy Hanvelt was installed as First Vice Chair, and Inyo County Supervisor Matt Kingsley was installed as Second Vice Chair. Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams remains an Officer as Immediate Past Chair. The newly installed 2018 Officers will lead the organization in championing policies on behalf of California’s rural counties.

RCRC_logo.jpg

“There are a lot of challenges facing California’s rural counties this year, and I am honored that my fellow rural county leaders have entrusted me to navigate RCRC’s efforts as Chair,” said Supervisor Bohn. “I look forward to the opportunity to work with RCRC Board Members and staff on strategies and opportunities that raise the level of awareness of rural communities in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and advance the policies set forth by the organization.”

In addition to the Installation of Officers, Rural Leadership Awards were presented to two officials who have demonstrated an understanding of, and leadership in, rural issues and the unique challenges that rural communities face.

Assembly Member Anna Caballero (D-Monterey) was the first recipient of the 2017 Rural Leadership Award.

“We are honored to present Assembly Member Caballero with the 2017 Rural Leadership Award as her actions continue to reflect her passion for ensuring California’s rural counties have a voice,” said Anthony Botelho, San Benito County Supervisor. “From opposing AB 1250 and SB 649, to authoring AB 577, which would have secured a more equitable definition of disadvantaged communities, we thank Assembly Member Caballero for her leadership, and look forward to working together this year to continue fighting for California’s rural counties.”

“I am thankful for the opportunity to represent rural California, and honored to receive the RCRC Rural Leadership Award,” said Assembly Member Caballero. “Rural California plays an important role in our state, and those of us who live and work there contribute to the prosperity of California. Agriculture feeds the country, and the forests and rangeland provide important recreational opportunities and habitat. It takes advocates who appreciate and will defend rural communities. Thank you RCRC for giving rural communities a voice.”

Senator John Moorlach (R-Orange) was the second recipient of the 2017 Rural Leadership Award.

“It is my privilege to present Senator John Moorlach with the 2017 Rural Leadership Award,” said Bob Williams, RCRC Immediate Past Chair and Tehama County Supervisor. “In addition to his advocacy on several legislative proposals of importance to rural California, Senator Moorlach authored SB 1463, which would have required the California Public Utilities Commission to prioritize areas that have increased wildfire hazards posed by overhead electrical lines and equipment. The Senator has also shown that he understands the importance of local-control regarding cannabis issues – a priority for RCRC. Rural advocacy from legislators representing more urbanized districts showcases true leadership, and we thank Senator Moorlach for his support.”

“With more than 20 years of experience at the county-level, I know firsthand the challenges faced by local government leaders,” said Senator Moorlach. “These challenges are only multiplied in our rural communities. In my current role, I rely heavily on my county relationships to inform my legislative priorities.”

In addition to the 2018 Officers, five regional representatives were appointed at the RCRC Board of Directors meeting in December 2017. These representatives join the RCRC Officers to make up the full 2018 RCRC Executive Committee. The regional representatives were appointed as follows:

Region 1: Supervisor Michael Kobseff (Siskiyou)
Region 2: Supervisor Aaron Albaugh (Lassen)
Region 3: Supervisor Diane Dillon (Napa)
Region 4: Supervisor Stacy Corless (Mono)
Region 5: Supervisor Daron McDaniel (Merced)

Details on RCRC’s 2018 Executive Committee and other Committee Chairs can be accessed here.

ABOUT RURAL COUNTY REPRESENTATIVES OF CALIFORNIA (RCRC)

The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) is a thirty-five member county strong service organization that champions policies on behalf of California’s rural counties. RCRC is dedicated to representing the collective unique interests of its membership, providing legislative and regulatory representation at the State and Federal levels, and providing responsible services for its members to enhance and protect the quality of life in rural California counties. To learn more about RCRC, visit rcrcnet.org and follow @RuralCounties on Twitter.

OPINION

Sacramento’s next battle – how

to spend a $6.1 billion budget

surplus

By KERRY JACKSON

https://www.sgvtribune.com/2018/01/18/sacramentos-next-battle-how-to-spend-a-6-1-billion-budget-surplus/https://www.pe.com/2018/01/17/bill-aims-to-plug-holes-in-addiction-treatment-industry/

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed the biggest state budget in history. He wants to spend $131.7 billion from the general fund, about 5 percent more than is being spent from the $125 billion 2016-17 budget he signed last year. His 16th and final budget also includes a surplus, which some lawmakers are looking at the same way a starving man looks at cheeseburger.

“It’s a strange world where politicians are celebrating that the government took too much money from taxpayers, but that’s exactly what is happening with this budget surplus,” said Assembly Republican Leader Brian Dahle.

The celebrants aren’t in full agreement over where that surplus should be applied, though. There might be some rising tensions between those who want to put it away and those ready to spend it. But that would be the wrong argument anyway.

Brown’s proposed budget, which is actually a $190 billion spending package when bonds and special funds are included, projects a $6.1 billion surplus. Brown wants to use the surplus to boost the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which was the result of a bipartisan deal between Gov. Brown and then-Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway and was approved by voters in 2014. His proposal would boost fund reserves to $13.5 billion.

“It’s not exciting, it’s not funding good and nice things,” Brown said of the money he wants to shovel into the Rainy Day Fund, “but it’s getting ready and that is the work of a budget.”

Those should be welcome words, since most politicians are impulsive. They prefer to spend taxpayers dollars on new, shiny — “exciting,” in Brown’s words — objects as soon as they get their hands on taxpayers’ money rather than attending to the affairs that are already under their administration. This mindset is why California’s roads have become such a rolling disaster. They have been neglected while policymakers have focused on more high-profile projects.

Such as high-speed rail. It doesn’t take a grizzled cynic to think that Brown might be putting away money for his over-budget “bullet train.” Republican Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, certainly believes that could happen, and his suspicions are justified. The Assembly Transportation Committee recently rejected a bill written by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Fresno Republican, that would prohibit lawmakers from raiding fuel taxes collected for road repair and using the dollars to make bond payments on the high-speed rail project. If they’ll move money from the state’s highway account to the train, they’ll take it from the Rainy Day Fund for the same purpose.

While Brown says he wants to bank money, some Democratic leaders are almost salivating over the prospect of spending the surplus right away.

“We have a very different approach,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee and a San Francisco Democrat. “Our focus, the people who we think need tax relief, are the working Californians who are making less than $25,000. That’s where we want to spend our money, making sure they have money to pay rent, to pay for food.”

One might think that there would be an intense demand for the surplus to instead be returned to taxpayers in the form of rebates. There isn’t. But this is where any argument about the surplus should be centered. The taxpayers were overcharged and that money belongs to them.

While lawmakers such as Ting believe the surplus belongs to them, the law says otherwise. Proposition 4, which established the “Gann limit” in 1979, not only imposes restrictions on state spending, it requires Sacramento to issue rebates when, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, revenues exceed the limit that Prop. 4 set “to keep inflation- and population-adjusted appropriations under the 1978-79 level.”

Though uncommon, rebates would not be unprecedented. Gov. George Deukmejian sent refunds in 1987. If none are issued for this surplus, the LAO says the state could be “highly vulnerable” to litigation because Brown is violating “the spirit of Proposition 4” by not counting “$22 billion of school-related spending toward the state’s appropriations limit” established by the law.

The threat of a lawsuit isn’t likely to move Sacramento. So if no rebates are coming, the surplus would be put to better use by dedicating it to paying down the state debt, which has reached $221 billion, according to the California Policy Center — and funding public employee pensions, which could be underfunded by $600 billion.

Sacramento, though, is programmed to spend. As usual, this won’t end well for the taxpayers.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

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.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach.