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.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

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.

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

With the super-majority party in control, the public employee unions have felt more empowered to sponsor legislation that gives them more power over management. Their emboldedness was so bad during this year’s Session, I started asking “who’s your Daddy?” with a number of these over-reaching bills (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Who’s Your Daddy? — July 1, 2017 , MOORLACH UPDATE — Bonuses and Bogusness — October 21, 2017 , MOORLACH UPDATE — Devastating Legacy — October 11, 2017 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Who Do You Answer To? — October 1, 2017).

I believe that bargaining unit negotiations should be public. Then you would see the nonsensical proposals that are offered to elected officials behind closed doors. Two thoughts. While a County Supervisor I championed the adoption of COIN (Civic Openness in Negotiations) (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Minting New COIN — June 25, 2014 ). And this year I proposed SB 371, which made it a conflict of interest to negotiate for wage increases and benefit improvements if the negotiator was benefiting directly or indirectly from the adoption of the bargaining unit agreement (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Pursuing Reforms — August 11, 2017). The statewide public employee unions came in full force and squashed both of these efforts. They are the “Daddy” and want full control. Which is probably why California is as fiscally screwed up as it is.

But, the Capitol is not immune to union bullying. Keep an eye on the city of Santa Paula. Let’s see how long it takes before they have to raise its sales tax, again! Or, when they will be hiring a Chapter 9 bankruptcy attorney. Of course, holding the current city council accountable then is a joke. They’ll probably be long gone or serving in Sacramento, thanks to the unions funding their campaigns. It’s that sick. And the Ventura County Star seems to be getting it in the first piece below.

The Governor’s veto of SB 1463 continues to garner media attention. KQED covers the specifics of the bill in greater detail in the second piece below. The feet-dragging and excuses drive me batty, as the death toll is now up to 43 in Sonoma and Napa Counties (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Safety Concerns — October 27, 2017).

Ironically, Governor Brown is travelling outside of the country to continue his efforts to reduce greenhouse gases around the world. Regretfully, two-and-one-half days of California wild fires produce the same amount of greenhouse gases as all of the cars in California combined do in an entire year (see https://www.livescience.com/1981-wildfires-release-cars.html). Can you say “hypocrisy?”

You’ve got to love the massive disconnect! Did you know that greenhouse gas reduction goals do not apply to wild fires? They should, especially since they happen in California and much of the strategy of the AB 32 Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 is predicated on reducing these threats.

Rather than raising money for silly trains and political projects that will do zero to mitigate global warming, shouldn’t the Governor focus on preventing devastating fires in the future? One gets the impression that globetrotting on vacuous platitudes is more fun and fulfilling for our current state leaders. How does one lecture the world when you’re failing at home? Talk about an emperor that wears no clothes!

Behind closed doors, cities and unions strike potentially expensive deals

amartinez

http://www.vcstar.com/story/news/local/communities/santa-paula/2017/11/03/behind-closed-doors-cities-and-unions-strike-potentially-expensive-deals/819497001/

Minutes before Santa Paula’s elected officials approved six new contracts awarding nearly every city employee a substantial pay hike, the public first learned of the long-term costs.

“By year three, the cost of the raises is $2.2 million,” Mayor Jenny Crosswhite said at the City Council meeting Oct. 16. “That was not in the staff report.”

What was in the staff report — released four days earlier — was what each contract would cost for the roughly last eight months of the 2017-18 fiscal year. Those costs ranged from $6,291 to $224,455.

Until Crosswhite put a price tag on it, taxpayers could only guess what the three-year agreements would ultimately cost them.

Each city in California handles contract negotiations slightly differently, but most have one thing in common: The negotiations are done largely behind closed doors. Often, elected officials helping to craft the contracts are at the negotiating table with the same unions that spent time and money helping seat them.

The door to those negotiations just got shut a little tighter with a new law that adds another public records exemption to contract negotiations between local public agencies and their employees.

LITTLE PUBLIC SCRUTINY

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, voted against Assembly Bill 1455, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in October.

“I’m a person who believes that the whole process should be public,” said Moorlach, who while on the Orange County Board of Supervisors helped develop one of the most transparent negotiating ordinances in the state. “I thought AB 1455 was sort of the Las Vegas thing. What happens in closed session stays in closed session. I believe the public has the right to know what’s really going on and what’s really being asked and what’s really being pressured.”

The way the process is set up now is the “biggest conflict of interest in government,” he said.

Assembly member Raul Bocanegra, D-San Fernando Valley, through his spokesperson declined to comment on why he introduced the bill and what problems it sought to fix.

Assembly member Jacqui Irwin, D- Thousand Oaks, said the bill wasn’t controversial and it extended to local agencies the same set of laws that have governed state agencies for years. Disclosing strategies and other information related to employee contracts would have hurt the process, said Irwin, who served on the Thousand Oaks City Council for 10 years.

“We knew budget-wise what our bottom line was. To be giving that sort of negotiating information out to the public, to me it’s detrimental to the taxpayers,” Irwin said.

Irwin said regardless of who contributed to a campaign, the council has a responsibility to balance fair treatment of employees with what the city can afford.

“If I would vote for an increase in employee benefits and the city doesn’t end up with a balanced budget I’m probably not going to get re-elected,” she said.

The bill had the support of 18 unions/labor groups and one opposed, the city of West Covina.

Without the legislation, proposals and strategies were “vulnerable to mandated disclosure under current law, thus threatening the ability of local unions and public agencies to engage in candid and fully-informed collective bargaining, with potential disruptive effects,” the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees wrote.

The union referred calls to AFSCME District 36, which includes Los Angeles and Orange counties. Spokesperson Erica Zeitlin said budget hearings were done out in the open. “Everybody gets to have a say,” she said.

That doesn’t include contract negotiations, and Zeitlin didn’t return questions seeking further comment on why the organization supported the bill or what the legislation sought to remedy.

West Covina City Manager Chris Freeland said the city opposed the bill because residents have been asking for more transparency in labor negotiations and the city has been trying to provide that. It’s been helpful to let the public know how it is trying to address pension reform and other concerns, he said.

“The city will continue to try and find ways to share the information with the public while meeting the requirements of the law,” Freeland said.

OPENING UP THE PROCESS

In 2013, Simi Valley adopted a policy aimed at allowing more public input on contract negotiations.

“It was to create more transparency in the labor negotiations but to stay consistent with the law,” City Manager Eric Levitt said.

A contract is introduced at one council meeting but not approved until the next time the council meets.

Cities and agencies use a variety of ways to let the public know what is in proposed contracts, according to the staff report prepared for Simi Valley in 2013.

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District stipulates that contracts be publicized and made available at least 15 days before adoption. Fresno policy gives the public 10 days to study the terms, which should be “costed out over time.” Palo Alto states the city should have the ability to fund any compensation agreements in the short- and long-term.

According to the analysis of AB 1455, a request by an Orange County blogger exposed a shortcoming in current public records analysis. In that case, Jon Fleischman requested contract negotiations between the county and the Orange County sheriff’s deputies. After the union representing the deputies was unsuccessful in blocking it, the county released information.

That case exposed a gap in protection for local agencies. Bocanegra’s bill closed it.

Attorney Craig Alexander, who represented Fleischman in the case, said two wrongs don’t make a right. “What’s the public policy here? Is it to keep average citizens and taxpayers who have to pay for these items in the dark?”

The trouble with the standard 72-hour notice is the public has very little time to digest the information and contact their elected officials with questions, Alexander said.

A LAST-MINUTE REVEAL IN SANTA PAULA

On the night Santa Paula approved the new contracts, City Manager Michael Rock noted the expensive proposition before the council. The contracts included pay raises but also increased tuition reimbursement, bilingual pay and the number of vacation hours the city would “buy back,” among other benefits.

“There is an overall cost to the city that is significant, and there is also significant revenue that has been generated through Measure T and other sources as well,” he said.

Measure T is a one-cent sales tax approved in November 2016 that is expected to raise $2.1 million annually. Rock said the money will also come from sources including the general fund and the newly passed gas tax, which was approved by the state Legislature to provide more money for road and bridge improvements.

Rock said that even with the raises city pay lagged that in other cities.

The two speakers on the item were from the Ventura County Taxpayers Association. One warned of the problems with using short-term money for long-term obligations, while the other questioned the lack of public input.

“When we have negotiations that are largely behind closed doors and the final approval is through a consent agenda item, and only because I believe the paper reported on it the other day are we discussing how much this is going to cost in future years, that’s not transparency,” said the association’s David Grau.

The council voted 4-1 to approve the contracts, with Crosswhite opposed.

Lawmaker: Why Is It Taking Years to Map Fire Hazards From Utilities?

By Lisa Pickoff-White and Marisa Lagos

https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2017/11/03/lawmaker-why-is-it-taking-years-to-map-fire-hazards-from-utilities/

The risk from wildfires in California means everyone living here should be prepared for one. Some more than others.

That obviously depends on where you live. But who’s in charge of telling us how risky any one place is?

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 Company to higher fire-safety standards.

After last month’s 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 Senator 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.

State investigators found some of those fires were ignited by overhead power lines and, to a lesser degree, by telecommunications equipment. After that, the CPUC adopted dozens of new regulations, some of which rely on maps to designate especially hazardous areas.

The CPUC decided in 2012 to create new maps specifically to highlight areas at higher risk from power lines and other utility equipment. A team of experts, including Cal Fire specialists, is working on the maps. One risk those maps aim to highlight is places with high wind speeds, which appear to be a factor in the rapid spread of the fires last month. Another is the types of vegetation in an area.

The CPUC published an early version of the maps last summer, and the commission expects that the final maps will be released this winter. If the final maps determine that power lines or other equipment are in hazardous areas, utilities could be held to higher safety standards.

Moorlach says the whole process is taking too long.

“We’ve got bureaucrats that are doing this and they’re dragging their feet, and you’ve got utilities that know what the outcome is going to be and and they’re going to delay it as much as they can,” he told KQED.

Last year, the governor vetoed SB 1463, a bill Moorlach sponsored that would have required the CPUC and Cal Fire to prioritize the maps and to work more closely with local governments and fire departments to create the maps.

Brown wrote in his veto message that the agencies were already addressing Moorlach’s concerns, saying, “This deliberative process should continue and the issues this bill seeks to address should be raised in that forum.”

CPUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said Moorlach’s bill would have actually slowed down the work.

“SB 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,” she wrote in an email to KQED.

Cal Fire already has hazard maps and, based on those maps, people who live in high-risk zones face tougher construction standards. Those maps were spurred by previous legislation. Fire building codes only apply to “very high” hazard areas within city boundaries. However, in areas where Cal Fire has jurisdiction, anything in “moderate” and “high” risk areas must meet their standards.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Safety Concerns — October 27, 2017

The photo provided below with the OC Register article tells the story. And the article addresses the need to deal with high power lines on wood poles immediately adjacent to the highway. I again want to thank Laguna Beach Councilman Bob Whalen for his yeoman’s efforts to work SB 1463 through the system. He attended four committee hearings and served as one of my two witnesses; the other was Paul Smith, Senior Legislative Advocate for the Rural County Representatives of California.

It’s now becoming clear what a tragedy it is that SB 1463 was vetoed by Governor Brown (see MOORLACH UPDATE — First Veto — September 24, 2016 september 24, 2016, MOORLACH UPDATE — Thank you, Vin Scully — September 28, 2016  and MOORLACH UPDATE — Rejection/Disappointment — September 27, 2016).

Here is my September 26, 2016 press release on the veto, which now appears to be quite prophetic with the 42 lives lost in Napa and Sonoma Counties this month:

“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.”

For more recent UPDATEs on this topic, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Conflagration Legacy — October 12, 2017 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Bonuses and Bogusness — October 21, 2017.

Updating the fire maps is taking much too long. We’re closing in on a decade for this process and it has cost dozens of lives and hundreds of thousands of acres have been lost because mitigating these risks has not been a high priority for the state. We’ve been notified that the state is nearing the final, external independent review portion of Phase 2, but it’s not clear when the state will actually implement new fire safety regulations and compel the utilities to address their infrastructure accordingly, directing their efforts first to the the real high priority areas of the state. So, when the state lags, the locals, once again, take it upon themselves to address this critical concern.

Laguna Beach makes plans to bury power lines to prevent catastrophic fires seen in Northern California

By ERIKA I. RITCHIE

http://www.ocregister.com/2017/10/26/laguna-beach-makes-plans-to-bury-power-lines-to-prevent-catastrophic-fires-seen-in-northern-california/

Citing recent media reports that utility lines and poles may have been the primary cause in this month’s deadly fires in Northern California, Laguna Beach City Councilman Bob Whalen pushed for immediate action to underground utility lines and poles citywide.

“Laguna knows all too well about the devastation caused by wildfires and my heart goes out to all those whose lives were changed in an instant by the massive fires in Northern California,” Whalen said at the Tuesday, Oct. 24 council meeting, recalling Laguna’s devastating 1993 fire that destroyed 440 homes.

With urging from Whalen and the public, the City Council unanimously adopted new policy and funding solutions to underground utility infrastructure. The council established a list of solutions to reduce the threat of severe fires, which included allotting $3 million in available city funds and $4 million available in the next two fiscal years to bury power lines along the city’s evacuation routes.

The council also agreed to review funding for similar projects citywide through a ballot measure or initiative.

Whalen outlined financing plan that uses city funds to reduce the cost of burying utilities to residents by 25 to 35 percent from what neighborhoods have had to pay through previous undergrounding assessment districts.

“My goal is to place one or more ballot measures on the November 2018 ballot so voters will have the chance to vote on a citywide financing plan, Whalen said. ” It will mean raising taxes, but I am optimistic that voters will see the wisdom of such a plan and realize that it is an essential step to eliminating one source of another disastrous fire in Laguna.”

Whalen’s plan would also ensure clear evacuation routes in the event of an earthquake where utility poles and lines could fall blocking residents from exiting and emergency personnel from entering.

“The utility companies have refused to help expedite undergrounding, leaving us no choice but to ask our community to support a local funding plan,” Mayor Toni Iseman said. “We must get this done to protect lives and property.”

Motorists drive southbound along Laguna Canyon Road heading toward downtown Laguna Beach. Overhead power lines have long been a safety and aesthetic concern for Laguna Beach residents and officials. Downed power lines may have been a cause of the recent brush fire in South Laguna. (File Photo by H. Lorren Au Jr, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Excluding utilities lines along Laguna Canyon Road, which are covered in a separate master plan for the canyon, there are 128,000 feet of overhead utilities citywide, according to a staff report. About 21,000 feet of the overhead utilities are along major evacuation routes, including Bluebird Canyon Road, Park Avenue and Virginia Way. City officials say it would cost $20.4 million to underground utilities in 11 evacuation areas, at a cost of $1,000 per foot.

Also on Tuesday, the council repealed a March ordinance requiring utility companies to underground new and replacement wires and poles. That action followed a settlement agreement reached earlier this month with Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.

After the city passed the ordinance, the two utilities sued to stop it. Rather than fighting a legal battle, the City Council agreed to the settlement agreement on Oct. 5, which committed the utilities to work with the city to review overhead electric systems and discuss ways to reduce fire risk.

SCE agreed to develop preliminary designs to bury electric facilities along Laguna Canyon Road in 12 months instead of 24 months, and San Diego Gas & Electric agreed to advance the city initial funding for engineering and design costs for the Laguna Canyon Road projects that take place within the next five years.

The city’s concerns about burying utility lines are not new. Fires caused by downed poles occurred in Laguna in September 2007, February 2011, September 2012 and in July 2015. In 10 years, there have been more than 58 accidents that have downed utility wires and resulted in the closure of Laguna Canyon Road. The most recent occurred Oct. 16, when the road — one of only three routes in and out of the city — was closed for 17 hours, said Shohreh Dupuis, director of public works.

City officials called for citywide undergrounding of utilities following the 15-acre wildfire in July 2015 that started when trees fell into utility wires, causing a power surge that sparked flames.

The city “dodged a bullet” with that fire, thanks to favorable winds and firefighters’ efforts, Whalen said.

In 2016, he traveled to Sacramento several times to testify on behalf of Senate Bill 1463 authored by state Sen. John Moorlach. The legislation would have required the state to identify areas most at risk for wildfires and the California Public Utilities Commission and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to develop enhanced plans to prevent fires from utility and power lines. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the legislation in September 2016.

“The dangerous overhead electric utility lines which crisscross 60 percent of the city have proven to be an unacceptable hazard,” said resident Matt Lawson, who chairs the city’s Emergency Disaster Preparedness Committee. “Cal Fire classifies some 90 percent of the city within the very highest risk category for brush fires. As I think our Fire Chief will confirm, very few other California cities are at such dire risk.”

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Bonuses and Bogusness — October 21, 2017

I’ve got bonuses for you. The first is that Newport-Mesa Unified School Board Trustee Judy Franco is being acknowledged for her long-term service. I want to wish her all the best and thank her for her dedication to the community.

Judy has been in the trenches over the decades and, when I stayed at the Hyatt San Diego several years ago for a California Republican Party Convention, she was also there for a School Trustees Conference. She has always been serious about her fiduciary role and has been a bonus to me. The Daily Pilot covers her decision to not rerun in the first piece below.

The second piece is from the Voice of OC and needs one slight clarification. The title is bogus. Of the 20 worst bills that I suggested the Governor should veto (one of the bonuses below), Senator Josh Newman (D – Fullerton) did not vote against one of them. He’s a liberal Democrat and votes with the herd. However, Sen. Steve Glazer (D – Rialto) voted against 6 of these lousy bills and is fully deserving of the moniker “centrist.” There is your inside bonus on this posturing. As always, actions speak louder than words.

The third piece shows that, although the 2017 Session has concluded, our office is still working daily on the pressing issues. My Chief of Staff, who has been a serious bonus during my tenure, was a panelist at a recent technology conference and was identified as a contributor in Government Technology.

Our efforts for transparency were thwarted last year with the introduction of SB 1251 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Upcoming SB 1251 Hearings — April 9, 2016 and MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1251 and SB 1140 — April 12, 2016). I shared this experience in my speeches last fall (also see http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1251-california-financial-transparency-act-2016). Again, we’re trying.

Talking about trying, the San Francisco Chronicle provides the fourth piece below. Although it does not mention me by name, it does address my only vetoed bill, SB 1463, so I’m throwing it in as a bonus (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Conflagration Legacy — October 12, 2017). It provides stronger clues as to why SB 1463, which did not receive one vote in opposition when it went through the Legislature, was vetoed by the Governor. Perhaps his veto message was bogus?

Now, for two additional BONUSES. The Governor had to address the Legislature’s bills by October 15. It’s time for the results.

BONUS: Governor Jerry Brown vetoed 7 (35 percent) of the worst 20 bills of the 2017 Session (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 Top 20 Veto Worthy Bills — September 22, 2017).

Although it’s not 100 percent, as these are bills written by fellow Democrats, more than two-thirds is better than his signing them all. Four of the Top 20 also made it to our “Who’s Your Daddy?” listing (noted as “WYD?” and further explained in the next BONUS). More on those results in the next UPDATE. Here are the results:

1 AB 20 (Kalra) Send Jobs, Not Investments to Dakota Signed
2 AB 168 (Eggman) Across the Board Salary Lowballing Signed
3 AB 199 (Chu) Construction Reduction Act WYD? Signed
4 AB 569 (Gonzalez- Discrimination of Church by State Vetoed
Fletcher)
5 AB 890 (Medina) Voter Suppression Act Vetoed
6 AB 1008 (McCarty) Employment Meddling Act Signed
7 AB 1209 (Gonzalez- Women Employee Reduction Act Vetoed
Fletcher)
8 AB 1269 (M. Stone) Mobile Home Tax Vetoed
9 AB 1274 (O’Donnell) Fee Hidden as a Tax Signed
10 AB 1455 (Bocanegra) Public Employee Bargaining WYD? Signed
Secrecy Act
11 AB 1461 (Thurmond) Food Handler Cards – Farmers Next? WYD? Vetoed
12 AB 1513 (Kalra) Union Invasion of Privacy WYD? Vetoed
13 SB 2 (Atkins) Killing Homes and Jobs for the Signed
Middle Class Act
14 SB 3 (Beall) California Legislature’s Housing Signed
Sub-Prime Act
15 SB 5 (De Leon) Park Bond Boondoggle Signed
16 SB 54 (De Leon) Sanctuary State Nonsense Signed
17 SB 63 (Jackson) Small Business Meddling Act Signed
18 SB 149 (McGuire) Do As I Say, Not As I Disclose Vetoed
19 SB 239 (Wiener) HIV Assualt Act Signed
20 SB 285 (Atkins) Bargaining Meddling Act Signed

BONUS: There is no disputing that public employee unions dominate and control the majority party in Sacramento. This year had another crop of bills at the end of Session that were so slanted to benefit unions, I decided to create a “Who’s Your Daddy?” list. It is that bad (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Who Do You Answer To? — October 1, 2017 october 1, 2017 john moorlach).

Jerry Brown would not be our Governor, but for the campaign funding he received in 2010 from public employee unions to overcome billionaire Meg Whitman’s personal financial resources. So, how did the Governor do with these 15 blatant union bills? He vetoed five of them. Killing one-third of these bad bills is commendable. Here are the results (four of them were also in the Top 20 list):

1 AB 45 (Thurmond) Teachers Pet Act – Housing Benefits Vetoed
only for unionized teachers
2 AB 55 (Thurmond) Oil Refinery “Skilled Journeyperson” Signed
Requirements
3 AB 73 (Chiu) Requires higher prevailing wages for Signed
low income housing construction
4 AB 83 (Santiago) Unionizes Judicial Council Employees Signed
5 AB 168 (Eggman) Across the Board Salary Lowballing Signed
6 AB 199 (Chu) Construction Reduction Act Signed
7 AB 621 (Bocanegra) Back Door School District Pay Raises Vetoed
8 AB 670 (Thurmond) Picket Lines in the Sandbox? Unionizes Signed
Part-Time Playground Attendants
9 AB 848 (McCarty) Bans State Colleges from Outsourcing Signed
Jobs to Foreign Countries
10 AB 1320 (Bonta) Eliminates Prison Outsourcing Vetoed
11 AB 1424 (Levine) Allows UC System to Use “Best Value” Signed
Bidding Methodology
12 AB 1455 (Bocanegra) Public Employee Bargaining Signed
Secrecy Act
13 AB 1461 (Thurmond) Food Handler Cards – Farmers Next? Vetoed
14 AB 1513 (Kalra) Union Invasion of Privacy Vetoed
15 AB 1651 (Reyes) Complicates Process of Removing Bad Signed
Teachers

‘She’s given her life to these schools’: Newport-Mesa trustee Judy Franco prepares to step aside after nearly 4 decades

By Priscella Vega

http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-judy-franco-20171020-story.html

When Judy Franco was appointed to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board in 1980, she didn’t imagine that 37 years later she would still be representing Area 5.

She said she had dropped hints about stepping down at the end of her current term, but when she announced Tuesday that she wouldn’t run in the 2018 election, some observers nevertheless were surprised.

Franco, 80, said she needed to clear up rumors about why the school board may have preferred one map over another in adjusting trustee zone boundaries in time for next year’s election.

In one proposal, labeled Map B, Franco and board President Karen Yelsey’s current addresses would be in the same zone, Area 5, resulting in the possibility of them running against each other in a future election.

Some critics of the other proposal, Map G, speculated it was created to help them avoid a possible faceoff. Yelsey and Franco denied that.

“I didn’t want to make the announcement, but I was sick and tired of hearing innuendo of reasons why we chose Map G,” Franco said Friday. “It made me very angry, and the blame was somehow not put on me but on Yelsey by many people, and it’s totally untrue. It irritated the devil out of me.”

Criticism aside, Franco said she had previously promised her husband that she wouldn’t run for another term so they wouldn’t have to schedule trips around school board meetings.

Franco will complete her time on the school board in December 2018.

During her tenure, Franco has seen the district close multiple elementary schools, embrace a growing number of Latino families from Costa Mesa’s Westside, and deal with controversy surrounding a Mariners Elementary School Gold Ribbon Award and the transition from the controversial Swun Math to new math materials.

Recently the district settled a lawsuit alleging that its election system, in which the seven trustees are chosen by voters throughout the district, violates the California Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit led to the district decided to change the system so trustees will be elected by voters in each zone.

Franco said her career development was an organic process, beginning as a teacher, transitioning into a PTA president at Newport Elementary School and later being appointed to a seat on the school board, though she didn’t expect to stay long. But she was elected to the seat the following year and has been there since.

“It wasn’t a dream of mine, it just sort of happened,” she said. “Every time the election was coming up, I’d get phone calls from people and so I continued to run.”

During her first year as a trustee, she went into “learning and listening mode” until she found her voice, she said.

In an interview Friday, state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) called Franco “a real trouper” for the school district and the Republican Party. He said he recalled bumping into her during a conference in San Diego where he could tell she “took her job seriously and loved it.”

Two of her passions have been establishing sailing as an official sport and program in Newport-Mesa and taking on a leadership role for Youth and Government, an independent study program.

Sean Boulton, who started working in the district in 1999 and is now principal of Newport Harbor High School, credited Franco with helping establish sailing as an official sport.

“It’s a unique feature in Newport-Mesa because of her,” he said. “It takes hoops and steps to establish a sport like that, and she gave us the clarity to make it official.

“She’s given her life to these schools.”

In 2001, Franco was diagnosed with breast cancer but remained active in the district. She said she has missed about 12 meetings throughout her time on the board.

Trustee Martha Fluor, a board member since 1991, described her colleague as a mentor and a “true dedicated warrior” with an “immense amount of knowledge.”

“One of her strongest assets is that she’s truly [a] committed board member,” Fluor said. “There were times she was going through cancer treatments early on when she’d come to board meetings even in the midst of chemo and radiation.”

During her tenure, Franco said, she learned to resist criticism as long as she remained dedicated to her philosophy of making sure that programs, resolutions and motions were for the good of students.

When she finishes her final term next year, the board will be in good hands, Franco said.

“It’s a good balance with a breadth of knowledge,” she said.

Priscella.Vega

Twitter: @vegapriscella

OPINION

Reiff: Recall Target State Sen. Josh Newman Says He’s ‘Not a Politician, Not a Lefty, a Centrist’

By RICK REIFF

https://voiceofoc.org/2017/10/reiff-recall-target-state-sen-josh-newman-says-hes-not-a-politician-not-a-lefty-a-centrist/

Recall target Josh Newman of Fullerton says he’s “probably the least ideological Democrat in the state Senate” and dismisses as “hyperbole” attempts to portray him as a “crazy lefty” who is out of step with his traditionally Republican-leaning district.

“The irony is I’m the guy who’s targeted … I’d argue that as an Army vet, former business guy, I’m actually quite reflective of my district, which is a politically centrist district,” Newman said on the “Inside OC with Rick Reiff” public affairs show.

Newman voted along with 25 of his fellow Democrats and just one Republican to increase gas taxes and vehicle license fees, a measure that passed with the bare-minimum 27 votes. And that has triggered a GOP-led recall campaign; those wanting to undo the Democrats’ two-thirds super-majority in the Legislature see Newman, a freshman lawmaker with less than a year in office, as the weakest link.

“The tax is an opportunity to try to overturn the result of the last election, mine,” Newman said. “It’s really about changing the balance of power in the Legislature.”

Recall backers have validated more than enough signatures for a recall, but are now in court challenging a new law that gives petition signers time to rescind their names. Newman said he supports the Democratic counter-measure because it is “clear” that “a very large, indeterminate number of people” were deceived into thinking the recall petition was actually a petition to repeal the gas tax.

Nonetheless, Newman said the Democratic moves will merely delay the Republicans. He said there will be a recall election sometime next year and “I accept the recall process.”

Newman strongly defended his vote for the gas tax: “We have a real problem. Our roads and bridges are in sub-standard condition due to 20 years of neglect.”

“I thoroughly appreciate those are precious dollars that are an additional burden to voters, motorists.” Newman said. He said he is open to ideas for spending transportation dollars more wisely, including from his Senate Republican colleague and fierce Caltrans critic John Moorlach.

But “you don’t solve one problem by ignoring another,” Newman said of his gas-tax vote.

Newman recounted his underdog campaign last year. A political novice, he out-polled favored Democrat Sukhee Kang, former Irvine mayor, in the top-two primary to advance to the general election, where he edged favored Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang.

Newman trailed Chang after election night, but prevailed over the next three weeks as votes continued to be counted from his far-flung district, which takes in parts of three counties — Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino.

“I was down and then sort of dumbstruck and then elated,” he said.

His unorthodox campaign included a bear mascot, which was Newman himself – he said he didn’t want to subject anyone else to heatstroke from wearing the heavy costume. And his campaign signs – a “Hello” name tag signed “Newman,” a cheeky reference to “Hello, Newman” from the TV show “Seinfeld” – won the national political consulting Pollie Award for best yard sign.

“I’m not a politician,” Newman said. “I didn’t have the relationships or the endorsements or the access to funds.” Especially in the primary, before sizable Democratic donations became available, “I had to figure out how to run a creative, low-dollar campaign.”

Newman said he decided to run for public office after testifying before a state legislative committee on the issue of veteran employment. He was perturbed that many lawmakers were checking their cell phones instead of listening to him:

“I came home and my wife admits, although she’s regretted it since, she said, ‘Hey, if you really want to make a difference you should think about running.’”

The show aired this week on PBS SoCal, KDOC and Cox, and can be viewed on You Tube.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

California Open Data and Transparency Efforts Continue Progressing Despite Challenges

Speakers at the Data Coalition’s annual Data Demo Day say tech improvements and culture changes are coming, but much room for progress remains.

BY ZACK QUAINTANCE

http://www.govtech.com/civic/California-Open-Data-and-Transparency-Efforts-Continue-Progressing-Despite-Challenges.html

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — The Data Coalition, an advocacy group for widespread standardization and publication of government data, hosted its annual California Data Demo Day on Thursday, Oct. 19, featuring panels of experts who work for and with the state’s legislative and executive branches of government.

Lance Christensen, chief of staff for California Sen. John Moorlach, sat on the legislative panel and showed up with a whole bunch of paperwork: a couple of thick blue binders, some weighty reports, another book of rules that barely fit in a pocket. He plunked it all down on the table and told the civic tech vendors, lawmakers and policy wonks in attendance that the stacks contained important public info about California’s budget info only available in outdated paper formats kept at the capitol in Sacramento. Essentially Christensen brought the props to show that despite California’s progressive values and booming tech industry, gov tech at the state level still has much room for improvement.

“If I were to say go find the budget, outside of a Google search, could you really find it?” Christensen asked the room.

He went on to note that if business owners, thought leaders or any other residents of California wanted certain budget info, “You have to drive to the capitol and spend a day picking this up.” He lifted a bulky binder to illustrate.

Indeed, a duality emerged throughout the event. Everyone in attendance — from government employees to politicians to technologists to lobbyists — voiced support for open data practices, while at the same time acknowledging that California could do a better job of execution.

That’s not to say no progress has been made in recent years. There was a sense of optimism in the discussions, a sense that state leadership is committed to doing its best to improve but is, of course, limited by challenges. The event’s keynote speaker California Sen. Richard Pan described how the failure of SB 573, which would have required the state to support open data and hire a chief data officer, had to do with politics but ultimately led to discussions that resulted in most of what the bill was asking for coming to pass, including the hiring of a chief data officer.

Pan also emphasized that the power of open data lies in not just transparency but also in its potential to improve efficiency within government.

“Through open data, we want to empower government to make decisions and see what the results of those decisions are on the public,” Pan said.

He said the best way to ensure that open data culture becomes entrenched in California is to develop better tools that the public will want to use to engage with government. Christensen, the chief of staff who brought all the papers, called for the public to show up at hearings, ask questions about why certain open data isn’t readily available and put videos of politicians answering on Facebook or other platforms where they can be shared.

Jan Ross, California’s deputy treasurer for technology and innovation, had the clearest examples of how open data practices in California are steadily improving, pointing to many of the open data and transparency efforts taking place within her department under the leadership of Treasurer John Chiang. Those efforts include the DebtWatch portal, which provides detailed information about $1.5 trillion of debt issued by state and local governments over the past 30 years.

It’s dry information, to be sure, but Ross talked about how citizens concerned with the government loaning taxpayer money in service of infrastructure and other projects could use the portal to see exactly where in their communities the money had gone, how it had made things better.

“You can see where this impacts your community and why you should care about it,” Ross said.

The challenges discussed included finances — especially for cities that did not generate as much revenue as major metros like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Another hurdle, experts said, is the sheer mass of data government collects, which can be cumbersome — as can finding ways for dozens of disparate public agencies to funnel that much data into a unified format.

“If the government chooses to publish its data, to standardize its data,” said Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Coalition, “the tech community can do amazing things with it.”

Arguably, the best indicator for open data’s bright future in California was the seemingly total acceptance that more gov tech companies are popping up with simpler ways to use tech to further open data uses.

Zack Quaintance Staff Writer

Failure to adequately regulate utilities helped fuel wildfires

By Jamie Court

 

image33

 

http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/Failure-to-adequately-regulate-utilities-helped-12292511.php

 

Corruption can kill.

The fires that laid waste to California’s Wine Country and at least 42 lives were not merely the product of a changing climate and extra-heated winds.

Early reports suggest the failure of Gov. Jerry Brown and his appointees to adequately regulate our public utilities to prevent such fires also fueled the fast-moving flames.

Investigators are examining downed power wires and exploding transformers from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which were reported on multiple 911 calls, by PG&E workers and by witnesses as the immediate cause of many blazes.

Reports from fire responders, residents and PG&E itself also point to the flames spreading so quickly because of overgrown trees too close to the utility’s power lines.

The Butte Fire in 2015, which destroyed more than 500 homes and killed two people in Calaveras County, was caused by PG&E’s failure to cut back a pine tree that hit a power line and sparked the fire.

PG&E’s negligence to identify the weakened trees led to bipartisan legislation in 2016, passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature, to reduce the risks of wildfire from overhead utility lines by clearing out dead trees. The bill required the Public Utilities Commission to identify and map high-risk wildfire hotspots due to overhead utility lines, taking into consideration local governments’ concerns, so that utilities would have to step up their mitigation efforts in those areas.

Unfortunately, Gov. Brown shockingly vetoed that fire prevention legislation, claiming that the state Public Utilities Commission and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had a process in place. The furious spread of fires along trees in the path of power lines last week lays naked that claim.

PG&E itself put the blame on “hurricane-strength winds” and “millions of trees weakened by years of drought,” contributing “to some trees, branches and debris impacting our electric lines.”

In fact, winds were only half the level of hurricane force, peaking at 30 miles per hour when the Tubbs Fire started, according to the Bay Area News Group, but overgrown trees as fuel for the fire were all too real. Attorney Frank Pitre, who sued PG&E over the Butte Fire, said it’s “the utility’s very responsibility to identify a weakened tree and remove it before it strikes a power line.”

Unfortunately, cronyism in the Brown administration has allowed a long-standing culture of neglect at PG&E to continue undeterred because PG&E and its brethren fear no real consequences.

PG&E has long been the darling of the Brown administration, supplying his top aide, Nancy McFadden, from its executive ranks, as well as his former Cabinet secretary. It’s little wonder the unanimous fire cleanup bill was vetoed when McFadden, Brown’s top legislative adviser, was a former senior vice president at PG&E who left the company with a $1 million payout.

The veto came despite the fact that explosive electric power equipment is among the top three causes of California wildfires.

Brown has also stacked his Public Utilities Commission with PG&E and utility partisans in the wake of corruption scandals that should have shaken the commission to its core.

PG&E’s former lobbyist was caught in a pay-to-play scheme with former PUC President Michael Peevey, but Brown did all he could to support Peevey and keep the pro-utility commission pro-utility. “He gets things done,” Brown said of Peevey, after the scandal broke, calling him “a very effective leader.”

We often think of public corruption as an academic, antiseptic issue. In this case, it has real-world consequences. Brown’s refusal to get tough on PG&E and other utilities has led to repeated safety issues that endanger lives.

Consider the San Bruno explosion in 2010 that claimed eight lives and leveled neighborhoods. PG&E neglected gas pipelines and kept shoddy maintenance records. It even took ratepayer money intended for gas pipeline repairs and used it for executive bonuses and shareholder dividends. Emails showed PG&E’s lobbyist worked surreptitiously with PUC commissioners to pick its own PUC judge to hear the case. It took a federal conviction this year to reveal PG&E was a criminal.

City officials in San Bruno still wonder why no one at the company was ever punished. Under PUC President Michael Picker, a top former aide of Brown’s, the commission continues to stonewall the release of documents related to the blast.

Of course, PG&E has been generous to Brown and his causes as well, shelling out six-figure contributions over his term.

The irony is Brown has made combatting climate change his signature issue, but his hostility to regulation has made California more vulnerable than ever to its ravages.

That’s a lesson the next governor should learn as prerequisite for the job.

Jamie Court is the president of the nonprofit nonpartisan group Consumer Watchdog. To comment, submit your letter to the editor at SFChronicle.com/letters.

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