How Newsom could use his powers to revive California’s economy

With Californians facing double-digit unemployment in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, California’s governor should be using his emergency powers to mitigate the pandemic’s effects on our economy.

Unfortunately, he has interpreted his emergency powers to authorize him to legislate additional costs on employing Californians.

Perhaps in good times, the state could add regulatory burdens on employment and small business without undermining the jobs market.  But these are not ordinary times.  The Wall Street Journal estimates that nearly 50 percent of leisure and hospitality jobs in California were lost between February and April.  The Southern California Association of Governments estimates that unemployment in Southern California will average 12.2 percent in 2021.

However, with the state facing a $54.3 billion budget deficit, it is hardly in a position to help.  The state will need to rely on the private sector, but the pandemic has reduced its revenues for hiring.  Thus, the governor must act to lighten the cost of hiring workers.

Fortunately, the governor has a potent emergency power to “suspend any regulatory statute” or regulation “where the governor determines … that strict compliance … would … prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects of the emergency.”  The governor should direct his administration to identify every regulation and statute that he might suspend to make it less expensive to hire additional workers while the pandemic lasts.

For starters, the governor should suspend Assembly Bill 5, which turned many independent contractors into more expensive employees, causing freelance writers and many others to lose their jobs.  In April, 153 economists and political scientists wrote an open letter to the governor, explaining that the law was “doing substantial, and avoidable, harm to the very people who now have the fewest resources and the worst alternatives available to them.”

Temporarily suspending Assembly Bill 5 makes sense:  In addition to the points made in the open letter, it has only been in effect for six months.  It is a costly luxury the state cannot afford at the moment.  Moreover, an initiative has qualified for the November ballot that would narrow the scope of the law.  Why not wait for voters to have their say before enforcing a law that has reduced hiring opportunities?

Instead of reducing the cost of hiring, however, the governor has used another emergency power – a questionable one – to issue at least two executive orders that have made it more expensive to hire additional employees.

In April, the governor issued an executive order that requires employers to provide two weeks of supplemental sick leave for various food sector workers.  In May, the governor signed an executive order, creating a presumption that any person, who is diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days of working at the employer’s premises, was infected at work (even though that individual could have easily contracted the disease elsewhere).

These executive orders are unconstitutional because they constitute legislative acts, which fall outside the governor’s executive branch powers.  The governor issued them under an emergency power that provides that “[d]uring a state of emergency, the Governor shall …have … the right to exercise … all police power vested in the state by the Constitution and laws of the State of California ….”

But to the extent the governor is using this law to legislate, it is clearly unconstitutional. The California Constitution expressly provides that “[t]he powers of state government are legislative, executive, and judicial” and “[p]ersons charged with the exercise of one power may not exercise either of the others except as permitted by this Constitution.”

Our state constitution vests our governor with the “supreme executive power of this State,” not the power to legislate.  By contrast, his power to suspend the enforcement of statutes during an emergency falls squarely within the governor’s executive authority to enforce the laws, particularly since the Legislature has granted him the power to suspend them.

Recent California governments have been reluctant to lift the regulatory burden on employment.  But as our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, observed, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. … As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew.” Our stormy present requires that we think anew.

Daniel  Kolkey is a former judge and former counsel to Gov. Pete Wilson and serves on the board of the Pacific Research Institute.

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Take back cities for people and the automobiles they use: Randal O’Toole

The pandemic has reminded us that our society has to be resilient to face all sorts of unexpected events, and this is doubly true for transportation. The good news is that the United States already has the most resilient transportation system in the world. The bad news is that some people are trying to take it away from us.

Transportation needs to deal with all kinds of unexpected events, including terrorist attacks such as 9/11, natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and southern California wildfires, economic downturns such as the 2008 financial crisis, and of course pandemics such as COVID-19. The most resilient transportation in all of these cases is motor vehicles and highways.

Terrorists seek to horrify the populace and disrupt the economy. When they choose a transportation target, it is almost always some form of mass transportation such as subways or high-speed trains. Even a crowded highway isn’t dense enough to cause much horror and, unlike rail lines, which can take weeks to repair, nearly all highways have alternative routes.

When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, 123,000 people in New Orleans lived in households that had no automobiles. When the levy failed, those with cars got out; many of those without cars were forced to stay and more than 1,000 people died. A few weeks later, when Hurricane Rita hit the Texas Gulf Coast, where auto ownership rates were much higher, 3.7 million people were able to evacuate in a couple of days.

Mass transportation systems such as Amtrak and public transit are particularly vulnerable to recessions. Because they are so labor-intensive, a decline in revenues can force major cutbacks in service. Highways, once built, are there when you need them; they aren’t going to go away because revenues to the agency that built them has temporarily declined.

Before the current pandemic, research found that people who ride transit are nearly six times more likely to suffer from acute respiratory diseases than those who do not. Masks help, but — as the CDC recently advised — the safest way to travel during an epidemic is in your own private automobile.

Despite the tremendous advantages of autos over mass transportation, a powerful anti-auto movement remains. A New York Times article recently urged cities to “take back streets from the automobile,” as if people in cars are less important than people who aren’t in cars.

In the decade before the pandemic, Los Angeles Metro lost a third of its bus riders. Metro’s solution? Make traffic congestion worse. “It’s too easy to drive in this city,” said Phil Washington, Metro’s CEO, about the city that is perennially at or near the top of the list of the worst congested areas in the country. He wants to turn lanes now open to all traffic into exclusive bus lanes so that his empty buses can zip by frustrated motorists.

Cities across the country are participating in a movement to make congestion worse. Sometimes called “road diets,” sometimes “complete streets,” the goal is to take lanes away from motor vehicles.

The results can be deadly. When a 2008 wildfire burned near Paradise, California, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the city realized it needed better evacuation routes. Instead, it put its only four-lane street on a road diet, removing two of the lanes. When a fire burned through the city in 2018, more than 80 people died, many in their cars while they were stuck in traffic.

Fifty years ago, people’s concerns about automobiles were justified. Cars were energy hogs, spewing pollution that darkened the skies of our cities, and killing 50 people per billion vehicle miles in highway accidents.

Those problems were reduced not by forcing people out of their cars but by making cars cleaner, safer, and more energy-efficient. Compared with 1970, autos use only half the energy, emit only 3 percent as much toxic pollution, kill 78 percent fewer people per billion vehicle miles in accidents, and improve each year. Irrationally, opposition continues as if automobiles were still as bad as they were in 1970.

In spite of anti-auto policies, 80 percent of passenger travel and 90 percent of urban travel is by automobile. It’s time to take back cities for people and the automobiles that have liberated them to reach more productive jobs, better homes, lower-cost consumer goods, and greater recreation and social opportunities. That means fighting the road dieters, congestifiers, and others who think that the primary goal of transportation policy should be to force people out of their cars.

Randal O’Toole is a Cato Institute senior fellow specializing in transportation and land-use policy and the author of “Romance of the Rails: Why the Passenger Trains We Love Are Not the Transportation We Need.”

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We need to reopen schools, but is it safe?

Schools are the bedrock of the American economy. They provide childcare that allows parents to go to work while supporting the healthy development of children through education, meals, and social services.  With four in ten US families having at least one school-age child, closing schools for the COVID-19 pandemic has had a predictably profound effect on millions of lives.

It is now clear that we cannot wait for a vaccine or herd immunity to take hold before we resume normal life and restart the economy. We need to reopen K-12 schools, and this means children will be among the first of us to re-emerge from the security of sheltering in place. This can be a safe decision if done correctly, and if we dynamically improve plans as we learn more about virus.

But what do we know so far that can guide us?

Handwashing, social-distancing and face-coverings have been remarkably successful, keeping infection rates low in many parts of the country. However, these non-pharmacological interventions (NPIs) are hard for children, especially those under 10 years of age or with special needs.

Additionally, healthy children seem resilient to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While a scary Kawasaki-like inflammation of the blood vessels is seen in rare cases, the latest figures from China show that only 2.2 percent of 44,672 cases were in those under 19 years of age. Yet we need more community-based data tell us if children evade infection, or if they are infected and remain asymptomatic. This is an important distinction because children require hands-on care, and asymptomatic infection can put older caretakers at home and school at risk.

Countries that have already reopened their schools and have had vastly different experiences. In Denmark schools have successfully remained open without outbreaks for about a month now, and the pandemic continues to lessen across the country.  Conversely, in Israel, South Korea, France, and Sweden, hundreds of K-12 students have become COVID-19 positive in the weeks since schools reopened. Though all of these countries planned carefully, in Denmark the schools took extra caution to reduce student-teacher ratios, implement physical distancing, and provide facilities for students to wash their hands as often as once an hour.

At the University of California, Irvine (UCI) we have convened a group of scientists, clinicians and educators to collaborate with the Orange County Department of Education and representatives from regional schools to help identify the unique re-opening needs of each school in our diverse communities. This complex process requires new resources and has inherent challenges — here are some of our initial procedural recommendations for the return to school:

  • Pre-arrival symptom screening. Families need easy-to-use, standardized approaches to perform daily symptom checks for students, possibly using a mobile app.  Symptomatic students will be required to stay at home and seek advice from their healthcare provider.
  • Arrival screening. Schools need to develop screening procedures for all students and personnel arriving at the school.  If students develop symptoms during the day, they must be isolated, consult with a healthcare provider, and be sent home until cleared to return to school.
  • Students exposed to COVID-positive family members. These students should stay home, check with their healthcare provider, and arrange to continue distance learning until they are cleared to return to school.
  • NPI: Handwashing (or hand sanitizers), face covering, and physical distancing. These are the most important steps to prevent virus transmission, but implementation in school settings requires thoughtful planning

Of course, there are many creative ideas under consideration to support a safer return to in-person learning. These include limiting students and teachers to small groups of 5-10 people to prevent widespread transmission, increasing the number of school nurses and on-site health centers, and testing sewage discharge for evidence of the virus. Many countries have reflexively abandoned physical education and after-school activities on school reopening. However, our collective disagrees, believing that the benefits of exercise on cognitive and emotional health, and prevention of disease, are a strong argument for resuming P.E. with physical distancing.

As students return to school, it is also important to address how the pandemic has heightened existing health inequities due to crowded living conditions, limited access to health care, jobs that carry higher risk of viral transmission, and the increased danger for those with comorbidities that are more common in underserved populations such as type 2 diabetes. Further, children have fallen far behind on routine immunizations that prevent other life-threatening diseases like polio, diphtheria and measles during the pandemic.

We have not seen a crisis of this magnitude in decades and while our schools face complex realities, they can reopen safely.  This will be achieved by strategies that will improve over time through the efforts of academic health centers like ours with parents, schools, businesses and public officials working together to protect our children for the duration of the pandemic.

Steve A.N. Goldstein is Vice Chancellor, Health Affairs at the University of California, Irvine. Dan M. Cooper MD is Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical and Translational Science, UCI.

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The two parties have failed America: Mimi Robson

Why should Californians give up on the old parties? Because they’ve failed us!

In this year’s presidential election we don’t have to decide between two big-spending old white men, neither of which seem to have our interests in mind when determining the direction of the country. We now have a third serious choice.

I know that sounds too simple, but it’s something we can truly do. We can finally elect a Libertarian for president and Dr. Jo Jorgensen is the candidate that can make that happen. She’s the difference the county needs.

Jorgensen, a senior lecturer in psychology at Clemson University, was the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate on a ticket with Harry Browne in 1996.

Her platform is straightforward: fix our $23 trillion dollar national debt, put an end to the non-stop involvement in expensive and deadly foreign wars, fix our broken healthcare and retirement systems, stop the tariffs that are destroying free markets for American consumers and producers and finally put an end to the immigration crisis.

In the past four years both of the old parties have failed us. Not just in California but across the nation. It once seemed that things were going along nicely; the economy was humming along, we saw the lowest unemployment in years, and most of us started the year thinking that 2020 was going to be great. But that all went to hell in a handbasket and it’s the old parties that are to blame.

The presidential election this year will give all Californians a chance to change the direction of both the country and the state. For too long we’ve let the Democrats and Republicans frame the narrative on the direction of the country, with the results being an unsustainable economy, unsustainable foreign intervention, and greater infringements on our personal liberties and freedoms daily.

In March, the country shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it can’t possibly be said that the government is responsible for the pandemic, they are most certainly responsible for their reaction to it. And that reaction has caused ramifications that will last for decades to come. At both the state and national level, our elected representative could have developed a plan to keep people safe from the virus while keeping people employed, but they instead decided to keep us in our homes and close our businesses.

Jo Jorgensen would have done things far differently. She would have allowed companies to start developing and employing testing immediately, by using the Emergency Powers Act to allow the FDA to more quickly approve tests.

Jorgensen would have also not supported the $3 trillion stimulus bill. She would have let people keep their money and decide how they wanted to spend it.

And then, after almost three months of our county being shut down, there was a flash point. George Floyd was killed at the hands of the Minneapolis police. This wasn’t an isolated incident and has been going on for far too long. Police officers have been acting with impunity for decades, including what happened in Los Angeles in 1992 with Rodney King. This happened in New York in 2014 with Eric Garner who died after being suspected of selling cigarettes. This happens again and again, and people have finally had enough. People want a change and neither of the major parties have set out to fix it.

Jorgensen believes that things need to be changed by first doing away with qualified immunity, along with no-knock raids and the militarization of the police.  She would support bills like the “tri-partisan” bill introduced by Rep. Justin Amash, L-Michigan, to end qualified immunity for police, unlike President Trump or Joe Biden who only wants to “reform” qualified immunity.

As the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, Jo Jorgensen will likely be on the ballot in all 50 states, as we were in 2016. This means that California voters will have a real choice this year.

Mimi Robson is chair of the Libertarian Party of California.

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After police changes, what else will unrest spur?

It’s now plain that weeks of social unrest following the Minneapolis police killing of the unarmed African American George Floyd in late May will spur huge changes in policing across America and California.

But what else? For landmark demonstrations through history sometimes produced major changes affecting much more than the immediate targets of the protesters.

Anti-tea tax protests of English colonists in Boston, which British authorities called riots at the time, helped spur the American Revolution and world-changing concepts of democracy. The storming of the Bastille about 15 years later not only freed political prisoners it aimed to break loose, but toppled the royal Bourbon dynasty that ruled France and much of Europe for centuries.

Anti-war protests across America in the 1960s not only led to the end of the Lyndon Johnson presidency, but undermined the U.S. war effort in Southeast Asia, eventually leading to an American pullout and a subsequent wave of immigration from Vietnam.

Most likely, many potential and partially complete changes will later be seen as fallout from the last month’s wave of demonstrations and the opportunistic looting that accompanied some of the them. These have involved more people around the world than any since the era of the Vietnam War.

For one thing, the protests exposed President Trump’s disregard for constitutional rights, shown when he ordered the clearing of Lafayette Park opposite the White House of peaceful demonstrators so he could walk to a photo opportunity that made him look silly. That misplay further exposed his lack of candor when he lied about use of tear gas.

No one knows for sure whether that will help end his presidency or lead to some new kind of constitutional crisis, but it did produce an unprecedented memo from the Trump-appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Mark Milley reminded fellow military commanders their oaths are to the Constitution, not loyalty oaths requiring them to follow illegal orders from the commander in chief. No previous top military commander ever felt the need to spell this out.

Prior to that memo, rumors circulated that Trump was considering a refusal to leave office if defeated this fall. The memo pretty much quashed that talk. So if the rumors were correct, one result of the demonstrations may have been to help preserve American democracy.

In California, the protests vastly increased chances of the Legislature putting a new proposition on the November ballot aiming to overturn the 1996 Proposition 209 ban on affirmative action in university admissions and other areas. That measure passed the state Assembly within a day of Floyd’s burial, and figures to pass the state Senate easily. There’s also a start to serious discussion of reparations for descendants of slaves.

And the protests produced budgetary shifts likely to put more funds into projects benefitting areas of the state that are majority-minority. They have already caused some employers who rarely did so before to consciously cast about for minority job candidates. And the city of Fort Bragg, named for Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, may get a new name.

But policing will be affected most quickly. Major police departments like those in Los Angeles and San Francisco have seen their proposed new budgets cut by tens of millions of dollars. They also face proposals to gradually defund them, with smaller, community-controlled units as replacements.

Gov. Gavin Newsom almost immediately ordered the state’s police training agency to stop teaching carotid choke holds constricting the main artery to the brain. Then California’s largest local police academies swore off teaching the knee-on-neck tactic that killed Floyd.

Police know they risk further protests if they don’t weed out officers with criminal pasts and start recruiting new cops less inclined to mistreat persons under their control. No one is sure how they’ll do that, but it’s now a must.

These are just some of the obvious effects of the weeks of civil unrest.

As with past protests like the Boston Tea Party and the storming of the Bastille, no one knows what else might follow. But it’s already plain the effects will help shape politics and some lives for years to come.

Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com.

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Untangling the web we weave when Twitter tags elicit Trump threats

The First Amendment, social media, and the president became tangled up again Tuesday when Twitter for the first time tagged one of President Trump’s tweets as false and misleading.

Twitter added a link beneath a set of tweets about mail-in voting. The company urged users to “get the facts about mail-in ballots.” The link indicates there is no evidence of a correlation between voter fraud and mail-in ballots.

The president offered a variety of responses, including that the tag violated his free speech and that he might “shut down” or regulate Twitter.

Let me untangle this mess for you, one string at a time.

Twitter is a corporation and its content decisions are not First Amendment issues. If Twitter blocks, censors, or halts someone’s account, it is the equivalent of a grocery store removing a customer who is knocking down shelves and screaming at other patrons. As a private business, it controls its space, physical or virtual.

The First Amendment protects us from government regulation. The key word in this sentence is “government.” Since Twitter is not a government entity, it is not possible for it to violate the president’s First Amendment rights.

This brings me to the next matter. The president cannot shut down Twitter. This would be an enormous First Amendment issue. The president, as the most powerful government actor, cannot censor this or any tool for expression. The Supreme Court has long held that any government censorship “comes to this Court bearing a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity.”

In other words, the framers of the Constitution specifically sought to protect us from the government censoring our individual speech or that of publications, such as newspapers.

The Supreme Court, for better or worse, has also emphasized that corporations have human-like protections. Censoring or punishing a corporation’s speech is generally equivalent, in the Supreme Court’s eyes, to stopping an individual from speaking. This would be a flagrant First Amendment violation.

Next, can the president regulate social media? No. Congress, which has lawmaking powers that are not vested to the executive branch, could try. It’s past attempts to regulate online expression have failed. The Supreme Court has again and again struck down attempts to limit expression online.

The Supreme Court has generally concluded online expression is akin to the ideas about public participation and the exchange of ideas that were on the minds of the Constitution’s framers in the 18th century. For these reasons, justices have strongly supported protecting such spaces.

For similar reasons, the president also cannot block other Twitter users from following his account, seeing his posts, or commenting. A federal court ruled last summer that “the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise‐open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”

So, what can the president do? He can do what any citizen does when they do not like a business or its practices. He can leave and not do business with Twitter any more. Alternatively, he can continue to use the tool to express his ideas.

It’s easy to forget social media platforms are private spaces. They are built to appear like public spaces, like a sidewalk or a city park. It is also reasonable to become concerned when social media platforms, which have garnered enormous power, choose to step into a discussion. If just three companies – Facebook, Google, and Twitter – chose to block a person or their ideas from their spaces, that person would, in many ways, disappear. They would be censored.

There is no legal recourse for these decisions, however. Nor is it likely there will ever be.

In fact, it is far more likely decisions like the one Twitter made Tuesday will become more common. Twitter has been developing and experimenting with policies for the the past several months that would curb misinformation and disinformation, as well as manipulated content.

Facebook has moved forward with an oversight board that will guide future content decisions. The company has also stepped into false and misleading content, taking down false information about COVID-19 cures and, more controversially, removing groups that protested stay-at-home orders.

Twitter did not remove the president’s post, which allows anyone who sees it to encounter the president’s ideas. The company instead added further information. Removing the post entirely would have halted that and been more of a concern.

Regardless, however, Twitter’s decision was not a First Amendment concern. The president’s threats to regulate or shut down the corporation would be.

Jared Schroeder is an associate professor of journalism at Southern Methodist University, where he specializes in First Amendment law. He is the author of “The Press Clause and Digital Technology’s Fourth Wave.”

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It’s time for American economic heroes to shine: Ken Calvert

Our unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness could not be denied by King George III. It’s now up to us to ensure they aren’t denied by COVID-19.

The deadly and highly infectious nature of COVID-19 is undeniable. It’s why we essentially shut down our economy overnight. To save lives, we took the disruptive steps needed to flatten the growth curve of the virus. Our pause gave health officials the time and space necessary – combined with resources provided by Congress – to increase hospital capacity, acquire essential medical supplies, develop and deploy tests, and improve treatments.

Given that time and space, our medical heroes stormed the beaches of the pandemic. While Americans shed tears of sorrow for the thousands we have lost to the virus, we simultaneously shed tears of pride for the selfless and courageous citizens who saved countless lives. Now, with flattening curves, more testing capacity, hospital capacity, and supplies on hand, we are in a stronger and safer position to responsibly ease restrictions on our economy.

As it has been from the pandemic’s early days, protecting the health of Americans must be an ever-present factor in our re-opening. We simply won’t flip a switch and resume our pre-COVID lives. Vulnerable individuals must continue to take extra precautions, masks will be worn, and high-density events will be some of the last activities to resume. Our post-COVID society is going to look a little different for a while – but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

We relied on our incredibly talented doctors, nurses, and scientists to confront the health crisis, now let’s rely on our incredibly talented entrepreneurs and business innovators to confront the economic crisis. Thankfully, it’s already happening. American free market ingenuity doesn’t need a green light from government – it just gets to work. Look at all of the restaurants and other small businesses in your community that had their normal operations totally disrupted but changed everything on a dime to find a way to stay open.

Many businesses didn’t have a choice and were forced to close their doors – but they didn’t shut down. Thanks to tech solutions like Zoom and other tools, companies have continued to work and, most importantly, have been conceptualizing their business model and functions in a post-pandemic economy.  Multi-national companies have already been putting new ideas in motion overseas in countries that are re-opening ahead of the United States. Tesla and Disney are just two major California employers that are already implementing new health safety procedures at their facilities in other countries. American workers will benefit from real-world lessons learned by these experiences.

Like anything, lifting our economic restrictions will be full of surprises – both good and bad. Where setbacks occur, we must act promptly and, if necessary, reinstate some restrictions to suppress new clusters. Unlike the early days of the pandemic, we are in a much better health posture to respond to communities who may experience spikes in the virus. Through compliance with public health guidelines and other safety advances, workplaces, restaurants, retail businesses, and other venues will be safer to visit from a health perspective than ever before.

The alternative to re-opening involves continuing our state of economic paralysis, more businesses closing up permanently and rising levels of jobless Americans beyond what we saw during the Great Depression.

Small businesses, entrepreneurs, independent contractors and many others have endured the economic burden of a shutdown only to be faced with a moving goal post on re-opening – from flattening the curve to finding the cure.  They will not survive a prolonged closure which will only mean more government intervention, more debt, and more loss of our way of life.  I want to build a society that’s safer, healthier, and stronger – not one that’s more dependent on the government.

As members of Congress, it is incumbent on us to lead the way forward to a new future that balances the health and safety of our citizens with the unmatched potential of our economic engine. I know America’s health care professionals and free market innovators are up to the challenge, as they always have been, and it’s time we let them do what they do best.

Ken Calvert is a former small business owner and currently represents California’s 42nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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With budget woes, public schools need a focus on outcomes

In light of an expected $54 billion budget deficit following the COVID-19 economic shutdown, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced budget cuts including a reduction of $7 billion to local school districts.

The cutbacks may be deeper than those made during the last decade’s recession, which has led California school officials to sound the alarms.

“We believe our school districts can’t reopen safely if they have to implement these kinds of cuts,” California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said last week. Despite an influx of federal dollars from two stimulus packages, Thurmond wants more federal assistance.

Newsom and four other Western governors have asked the feds to provide an eye-popping $1 trillion. Such a massive bailout seems unlikely given the needs of other states, the exploding deficit and the political reality of a Republican administration that’s not particularly sympathetic to the plight of big-spending blue states.

Some obvious facts are lost in these discussions. Despite record-setting funding levels and slowing student populations, “local school districts are hitting the panic button,” wrote the Los Angeles Times’ John Myers in May 2019 — long before anyone had heard of coronavirus. Schools had been facing skyrocketing special-education, pension and health-care costs, leading to “compelling evidence that the status quo is unsustainable.”

Before the crisis, Newsom had announced a budget that was generous to public schools. But his proposed 2.29 percent cost-of-living adjustment upset school officials, who had sought a 3 percent hike. “Districts are complaining that the difference … is compounding an already financially fraught year, in which there’s not enough money to cover basic operating expenses,” as EdSource reported in March.

School officials now are complaining about layoffs, which likely are necessary given dropping revenues. They had, however, been warning about that possibility before the latest reductions. As usual, debates about California’s public schools center on funding formulas, rather than educational outcomes.

The goal of public schools should be to effectively teach schoolchildren — not maintain growing administrative fiefdoms and world-class retirement benefits. Unions should have a voice in the process, but their employee-protection priorities shouldn’t top the list. Yet once again, these bureaucratic priorities are dominating the school debate.

In recent years, the Legislature and governor have imposed restrictions on charter schools, which have had a remarkable record at boosting student achievement in a cost-effective way. The California auditor found last year that the state “does not explicitly require districts to spend their supplemental and concentration funds on the intended student groups or to track how they spend those funds.” That issue was never resolved.

California’s student performance has not noticeably improved over the past decade, even as public-school budgets have soared by 60 percent.

Nevertheless, Thurmond and others would have us believe the main obstacle to safely operating the public schools is a lack of additional money. At some point, we’d hope the state’s educational brain trusts might realize that they need to focus on other subjects than accounting.

Here’s the reality: A bailout won’t fix the fundamental budget problems faced by the state’s public schools, which long predate the COVID-19 budget shortfalls. It’s time for state officials to focus on serious reforms that boost education outcomes and not just incoming dollars. The solution will come from creativity here at home, not from federal bailouts.

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CHP investigating after pedestrian is hit and killed on the 5 Freeway in Laguna Hills

LAGUNA HILLS — A pedestrian was struck and killed on the southbound San Diego (5) Freeway in Laguna Hills and the California Highway Patrol was investigating early Tuesday.

The accident was reported near the Alicia Parkway exit about 12:05 a.m. Tuesday, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A caller told the CHP a pedestrian was running in lanes of the freeway and was struck by a vehicle.

Officers were talking with the drivers of a Toyota Camry and big rig, but it was unclear if either vehicle struck the pedestrian.

The Nos. 3 and 4 lanes of the southbound San Diego Freeway just north of Alicia Parkway were closed until further notice for an investigation into the crash, the CHP said.

The age, gender and name of the victim were not disclosed. No arrests were immediately reported.

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U.S. women’s soccer players ask for equal pay appeal, trial delay

American women’s soccer players want to delay a trial until after an appellate court reviews last week’s decision to throw out their claim of unequal pay while allowing allegations of discriminatory work conditions to move forward.

Lawyers for the women filed a motion Friday night asking U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner in Los Angeles to enter a final judgment on his decision to dismiss their pay claim, which would allow them to take the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Players asked Klausner to stay the trial, currently set to start June 16. The U.S. Soccer Federation agreed not to oppose the requests but did not agree with some of the characterizations made by the players’ lawyers.

If Klausner signs the order, a trial probably would be delayed until 2021 at the earliest. That would allow more time for settlement negotiations under new USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone — a former national team player — and for talks on a labor deal to replace the collective bargaining agreement that expires on Dec. 31, 2021.

“Equal pay means paying women players the same rate for winning a game as men get paid. The argument that women are paid enough if they make close to the same amount as men while winning more than twice as often is not equal pay,” Molly Levinson, spokeswomen for the players, said in a statement.

Players sued in March 2018 under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and they asked for more than $66 million in damages.

Klauser ruled May 1 they could not prove discrimination over pay and granted in part the USSF’s motion for a partial summary judgment. He said the union for the women’s national team rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the men’s national team’s collective bargaining agreement and the women accepted guaranteed salaries and greater benefits along with a different bonus structure.

He also refused to let go to trial allegations the women were discriminated against because they played more games on artificial turf.

Klausner left intact claims the USSF discriminated in its use of charter aircraft, and in the money it spent on commercial airfare, hotel accommodations, and medical and training support services.

Klausner wrote the women outearned the men $24.5 million to $18.5 million during the period in dispute. The women were far more successful with two World Cup titles, while the men failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup

“The argument that maternity leave is some sort of substitute for paying women players the same rate for winning as men is not valid, nor fair, nor equal,” Levinson said. “The argument that women gave up a right to equal pay by accepting the best collective bargaining agreement possible in response to the federation’s refusal to put equal pay on the table is not a legitimate reason for continuing to discriminate against them.”

If Klausner enters a final judgment on the thrown-out claims, his ruling would be reviewed by a three-judge panel. The 9th Circuit says civil cases take about 12-to-20 months from the filing of the notice of appeal until oral argument, and another 3-to-12 months in most cases between oral argument and a decision.

“Allowing an appeal to proceed to the 9th Circuit now would conserve resources for both the parties and the court and could accelerate the ultimate resolution of this dispute,” the players’ lawyers wrote in their filing. “Allowing an appeal now would also avoid the risk of needing to conduct a second trial involving the same trial participants, in the event that the dismissal is reversed.”

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