Irvine can lead fight on climate change, by transitioning to solar

Our biggest threat, locally to globally, is climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns we have until 2030 to reduce our global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 45% to avoid a catastrophic outcome. Short of this, we can expect worsened droughts, diminished air quality and skyrocketing food prices. This reduction seems insurmountable. But it does not have to be. Our plan to harvest — and store — solar power can get us there.

Consider Irvine: We have the resources and motivation to go net-zero — even net-negative — in CO2 emissions within 10 years. Irvine previously led the way to save us from another existential threat: the destruction of the ozone layer by CFCs. Our city laid the groundwork to ban CFCs in 1989, the first municipality to do so.

A year later, cooperation between the city and UC Irvine’s Nobel laureate Professor of Chemistry Sherwood Rowland led to the creation of what is now ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability, the world’s largest organization of city governments sharing best practices in environmental policy. Irvine is positioned once again to be a world leader by reducing — even eliminating — CO2 emissions. The policy vehicle through which this may be achieved is Irvine’s recently passed drafting of a climate action plan.

Specifically, we advocate here for a staunch transition to solar energy use, which ought be a centerpiece of the Climate Action Plan. We calculate that the average resident’s electricity usage is about 2114 kWh, natural gas usage about 11,000 cubic feet and automobile usage is about 8,572 miles, all per year per person. This amounts to a total annual usage of 2.1 EJ for electricity, 3.2 EJ of natural gas heat and 2.4 EJ of electrical car transport energy for all of Irvine’s residents. The amount of solar energy touching Irvine’s rooftops is alone sufficient to power our residential electrical, heating and transportation needs.

This means that adding solar to our municipal and retail parking lots would bring our residents to net-negative carbon emissions, with power derived right here in our city. This plan is not dependent on the sun always shining. Around-the-clock energy source storage is available and cost effective for carbon-free electricity, in a recent Stanford-Berkeley study that showed that existing technologies can provide the storage.

Who would pay for it? Replacing fossil-fuel energy with cheaper solar and storage can be financed with zero or little up-front cost via existing arrangements like a solar lease or power-purchasing agreement that takes advantage of this cost benefit, and the city of Irvine could facilitate.

In addition to these solar energy-based solutions, we also point to Sonoma County’s model of funding rebate-based incentives for electric vehicles, and recommend it be replicated in Irvine. This type of incentive system makes the widening array of electric vehicle models put into market by Ford, BMW and Mercedes all the more accessible — and with it, the local emissions reduction to be gained.

This model is not only Irvine’s to implement, but can be part of the quick march to net zero for all of Southern California, and beyond. Irvine’s Climate Action Plan should be bold, attaining and even surpassing what we need globally in our local implementation. The lower cost of solar plus storage makes the financial potential available to transform our city’s energy usage to again become a global leader, with little cost up-front other than planning.

We have the resources and motivation, and with the proper partnerships across the public, private and academic sectors, a green, net-zero future can become reality.

Kev Abazajian is a professor of physics and of astronomy at the University of California, Irvine. Gianna Lum is the associate director of Climatepedia. Benjamin Leffel is a doctoral candidate in sociology at UC Irvine.

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AB 731 proposes added health care costs and unnecessary bureaucracy for consumers  

Orange County businesses play an integral role in keeping local communities healthy and thriving. Employers provide access to affordable health care to their employees. In Orange County and across California, organizations with 100 or more employees can leverage customized benefits packages by negotiating large group rates through their respective health plans.

These carefully agreed-upon packages between employers and health plans have been remarkably successful because they efficiently provide affordable, high-quality care that would otherwise be inaccessible to many employees. Should this efficiency be threatened, employees and the community at-large will ultimately suffer from over-regulation. Unfortunately, Assembly Bill 731 does just that – it disrupts the thoughtful negotiation process that allows for convenient accessibility for employees.

This is why Orange County Business Council opposes AB 731. The bill will add yet another layer of unneeded bureaucracy, delays, and costs by imposing a redundant review process on large group plan agreements by two government agencies – the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) and the California Department of Insurance (CDI).

Disguised as a transparency bill, AB 731 is the solution to an imaginary problem. A 2015 CA law, SB 546 already requires health plans to report and make public, large group rate information. Why are lawmakers trying to create another layer of bureaucracy that does essentially the same thing?

OCBC supports “[ensuring] collective accountability, cost transparency, timely reimbursement to health care providers and improved cost and coverage outcomes for employers and employees.” Large group health plans already meet these standards. AB 731 does not further ensure accountability or transparency; instead, it actively harms the cost and coverage outcomes for both employers and employees.

AB 731 will also add extra costs to tax payers by expanding the roles of DMHC and CDI to take on massive rate review projects of thousands of California businesses. The DMHC is fully funded by health plan providers, so when their budget expands, costs are passed down to consumers through higher health care premiums.

In an opposition letter to the Senate Committee on Health, OCBC stated “addressing rising health care costs and ensuring employees have access to high-quality care is a shared priority, but AB 731 is not the solution.” Rather than imposing costly, unnecessary legislation on the public, legislators should be focusing on lowering the actual costs of health care and healthy living.

AB 731 will provide no benefit to consumers, and will only add more bureaucracy, delays, and health care costs for Californians. Lawmakers should heed the call and make affordable health care a priority by opposing Assembly Bill 731.

Alicia Berhow is the Orange County Business Council’s Sr. Vice President of Government Affairs.

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The follies and excesses of Proposition 65

It’s been a bad summer for Proposition 65, which is a good thing for California’s small businesses and consumers.

Prop. 65 is the California law responsible for the cancer-warning signs so ubiquitous that most Californians know it’s better just to ignore them.

In bars and restaurants, on playground equipment, shoes, umbrellas, and golf club covers, even around Disneyland, consumers are warned that product — even the place itself — “is known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive harm.”

While most Californians treat these with bemusement, they are no laughing matter. They mislead consumers and expose small businesses to ruinous lawsuits. And because California is the world’s fifth-largest economy (that’s the United Kingdom riding our bumper), decisions made in Sacramento can have disastrous national effects.

Fortunately, Prop. 65 has suffered a couple of recent major setbacks. State lawmakers should ride this momentum to make meaningful reforms to rein in this posterchild of over-regulation. The California Policy Center is doing its part by highlighting some of the most ridiculous Prop. 65 warning labels in a contest that starts today. Visit californiapolicycenter.org for more information.

In August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took the unprecedented step of issuing guidance stating it won’t approve of Prop. 65’s “false labeling” on the weedkiller Roundup because the science doesn’t support it. EPA didn’t mince words: “It is irresponsible to require labels on products that are inaccurate when EPA knows the product does not pose a cancer risk,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We will not allow California’s flawed program to dictate federal policy.”

This federal action against Prop. 65 came on the heels of a long-sought Prop. 65 exemption for coffee in June. This Prop. 65 about-face was the result of outrage from coffeemakers, drinkers and even scientists who demonstrated that coffee was not a cancer risk. Another federal agency — the Food and Drug Administration — threatened to “step in” if the state went ahead with Prop. 65 labels for coffee. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb explained that these “could mislead consumers to believe that drinking coffee could be dangerous to their health when it actually could provide health benefits.”

Prop. 65 is often out of step with scientific consensus because it draws from a reference list of nearly 1,000 chemicals, which state regulators say could cause “one excess case of cancer in 100,000 individuals exposed to the chemical over a 70-year lifetime.” At such a low bar, everything causes cancer.

Like so many regulations, the biggest victims of Prop. 65 are small businesses. Prop. 65 deputizes private trial lawyers to search for evidence of noncompliance. Small businesses, which generally don’t have the resources to fight costly legal battles, are often compelled to settle. Because the penalties for failure to warn are so steep, businesses paid $35 million in Prop. 65 settlements in 2018, with more than three-quarters of this total going to attorney fees. Some lawyers who specialize in this area take home more than $1 million in fees per year.

Are there some consumer products that really are dangerous and should come with a consumer warning? Of course. But Prop. 65 ironically makes consumers less safe because it dulls our reactions to real threats. If everything has a warning then, in effect, nothing does. Thanks to Prop. 65, consumers have no way to measure their real risk.

While the logical case against Prop. 65 is airtight, perhaps the most effective way to illustrate its absurdity is simply by showing real images of these warning labels. Just as Malcolm Gladwell explained in his bestselling 2005 book Blink that you can learn more about someone by glancing at their bookshelf than by hours of conversation, Californians can discover more about Prop. 65 by viewing these images than by studying the junk science that underlies them.

That’s why the California Policy Center has been awarding a weekly prize for the craziest Prop. 65 image submitted by the public for the last year. We’ve received some mind-blowing photos, including Prop. 65 warnings on such items as prenatal vitamins, gingerbread houses, and even an entire gym. Now that we have 52 images, we’re asking the public to vote for their favorites to determine a grand prize winner.

If pictures truly speak louder than words, winter is coming for Prop. 65.

Will Swaim is president of the California Policy Center.

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Planning reform, private sector innovation key to fixing housing market: Gary Painter

Editor’s note: This op-ed is part of the SoCal Policy Forum, a partnership between the Southern California News Group and the Center for Social Innovation at UC Riverside. For more SoCal perspectives on the problems of housing affordability and homelessness, visit socalpolicy.org.

Let me start by stating the obvious.  The institutions that control housing markets in California are broken, and the pain is widespread.

Whether you live in Los Angeles County or in an exurban region like the Coachella Valley, the percentage of people facing rent burden has been increasing over the past decade, as illustrated by data visualizations generated by the Neighborhood Data for Social Change platform.

In Los Angeles, the percentage of households facing severe rent burden, which means that a household pays more than 50% of their income in rent, has increased from approximately 28% to 30% from 2010-2017.  In the Coachella Valley, the percentage increased from roughly 27% in 2010 to 29% in 2017.

Despite differing housing contexts, it is clear from numerous reports that there is a structural deficit in the number of units of housing available in the state, as housing production has fallen hundreds of thousands of units short of matching population growth.  If housing markets were left free to respond to price pressures, this would not happen.  However, housing markets are tightly regulated by a variety of planning processes that converge to restrict supply, including zoning and land use regulation.

Although some of these regulations were enacted for good reasons, such as environmental protection or to prevent residential populations living in close proximity to dirty industries, government needs to reform planning processes that have been in place for decades, and that no longer efficiently serve California’s population from 50 years ago. This is a primary cause of the affordability crisis as we have simply not built the housing to accommodate our population growth.

Fortunately, there are many common sense planning reforms that could be enacted to bring much needed supply to the market.  Policies that create opportunities for by-right development under certain conditions can be quite sensible.

While Senate Bill 50, which required streamlined approval of multifamily housing projects near transit, may not have been perfect, policies to increase density in places that are transit accessible provide a starting point.

The city of Los Angeles has passed ordinances to speed up the process of development for supportive housing and for transit oriented communities.  Many states have eliminated single family zoning to let the market decide the density for residential communities.

While there is significant need for public sector reform, the private sector also has a critical role to play in improving our regional housing market.

Not only has history demonstrated how the private sector has culpability in the dysfunction of the housing market through policies like redlining, but recent research suggests that consolidation among home builders has increased prices fifty percent more than would have occurred without this consolidation.

Two areas where private sector innovation is needed is in construction and in finance.

Recently, a number of new models of construction materials have garnered attention as possible ways to make housing development more affordable. These approaches include a process for off-site construction and using alternative materials like shipping containers or 3-D printing.  However, these new approaches continue to struggle to achieve the hoped for savings, in part, due to the interactions with outdated planning process. Private developers and government agencies alike also need to incentivize new models for building and rehabbing workforce and affordable housing that do not always include tax credits.

The USC Price Center for Social Innovation recently produced a case study on Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) models that generate affordable housing units more quickly and economically than constructing new housing units. NOAH models rehabilitate aging units, such as old hotels or dilapidated apartment buildings, and importantly do not rely on government subsidies that tend to lengthen the development process. To maximize this model, government must work with private developers and philanthropy to stack blended investment (blended finance) to finance these projects will be essential to achieve a healthy housing market.

I’ll continue to state the obvious by noting that no one approach can singularly solve our regional housing crisis. It is essential to enact a portfolio of interventions to solve our housing crisis, and not focus on a single policy reform. Instead, we must collectively operate in a broader, comprehensive “social innovation framework” in which multiple interventions can be tested simultaneously, generating iterative learnings and catalyzing rapid change across multiple programs and policies affecting housing in the region.

This includes coordinated policies and programs that not only address homelessness and its causes, but also help expand affordable housing and housing for the region’s workforce too. The private industry has perfected the R&D approach to testing multiple ideas at once, starting small, building on success, and accounting for possible failures. This approach has resulted in the discovery of new drugs that have cured some of the most complex diseases of our time. A similar process is needed to solve our sick housing market.

Instead of looking backward to what the housing market was in the past, it is time to plan for the housing market our communities need for the next 50 years.

Gary Painter is a professor in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. He also serves as the director of the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation and the Homelessness Policy Research Institute.

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Striking with a hot iron in Sacramento

The old adage of “strike while the iron is hot” is especially applicable to politics.

Something that might be politically impossible at one moment may succeed when circumstances change if advocates for that something move fast enough.

It’s why, for instance, dozens of otherwise obscure Democratic politicians are suddenly fancying themselves as presidential candidates.

Donald Trump’s improbable presidential win in 2016 underscored the importance of timing one’s moves, and the subsequent turmoil among Democrats may propel relative unknowns into contention next year.

On a more prosaic level, we are seeing the syndrome at work in this year’s session of the California Legislature.

Last year’s election produced two big changes in the Capitol – a new governor in Gavin Newsom and even-larger Democratic supermajorities in the Legislature. The changed circumstances emboldened advocates for causes that had been stalled in previous sessions.

One example, merging national political turmoil and inside-the-Capitol politics, is the legislation that Newsom signed, clearly aimed at Trump, that would bar him from running in California’s presidential primary next year if he didn’t disclose his tax returns.

Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, vetoed virtually the same bill, but Newsom, evidently seeking to burnish his national political image, declared it a moral imperative.

As the legislative session enters its final days, there are dozens of other measures that in past years either could not win approval or would be vetoed, but are alive and kicking because of changed circumstances.

Two illustrate the syndrome: Assembly Bill 1270 and Assembly Constitutional Amendment 14.

The former, carried by Assemblyman Mark Stone, a Democrat from Santa Cruz, would make a huge change in California’s “false claims” law, which guards against fraud among those doing business with state or local governments.

The law currently allows private attorneys to pursue fraud allegations when local or state prosecutors decline, but specifically exempts tax cases from such private actions. AB 1270 extends the act to tax cases, opening a huge and potentially lucrative field for attorneys.

Proponents, including personal injury attorneys and Attorney General Xavier Becerra, say it will help catch tax-evaders but business groups portray it as a hunting license that would force unsuspecting taxpayers to defend themselves even when tax authorities have cleared them of fraud accusations.

The objective need for such legislation seems scant, since California’s tax collection agencies already have a fearsome reputation for going after those they deem to be avoiding payment.

Consumer Attorneys of California, the political action arm of the plaintiffs’ bar, constantly seeks legislation to open new opportunities for suing and winning judgments, but has been largely thwarted by business and employer groups. It’s clearly hoping that having Newsom in the governor’s office and stronger Democratic majorities will generate a win this time.

ACA 14, meanwhile, is the latest version of long-standing efforts by unions to gain members in the immense University of California system.

It would, if passed by the Legislature and then ratified by voters, crack UC’s constitutional autonomy and force it, in effect, to reduce or eliminate contracted-out services and increase its unionized payroll workers. UC estimates that the measure would increase its costs by $172.6 million a year.

As a constitutional amendment, ACA 14 requires two-thirds votes of both legislative houses, which would have been impossible when Democrats held just that many seats. However, with enhanced supermajorities, the measure by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat who is the unions’ best friend in the Legislature, has cleared the Assembly and is now pending in the Senate.

Timing is, indeed, everything.

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary

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Three major hurdles to fixing California’s housing crisis

Editor’s note: This op-ed is part of the SoCal Policy Forum, a partnership between the Southern California News Group and the Center for Social Innovation at UC Riverside. For more SoCal perspectives on the problems of housing affordability and homelessness, visit socalpolicy.org.

Earlier this summer, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a $214.8 billion state budget that included $2 billion in new spending to address California’s housing and homelessness crisis. While Governor Newsom and the state legislature should be applauded for their efforts, we must also acknowledge that California cannot spend its way out of the housing affordability crisis that has engulfed the state.

There are no quick fixes when it comes to alleviating the state’s housing woes. California’s housing crisis is the result of decades of legislative and regulatory actions at both the state and local levels which have constrained, and in many instances outright stopped new home construction. If measurable progress on housing affordability is to occur, there are several key legal hurdles which must be overcome.

First and foremost, there needs to be a serious effort by Governor Newsom and the state legislature to mend – not end – the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Signed into law in 1970, CEQA was created to ensure that certain environmental protections were in place with new development projects, such as housing. Despite its original intent, CEQA has evolved from a tool into a trap, ensnaring practically all new housing, regardless of how locally necessary or environmentally friendly.

From senior retirement communities to homeless shelters, hundreds of CEQA lawsuits have crushed sorely needed new housing proposals. CEQA abuse has become so widespread that based on a study by the law firm Holland & Knight, between 2012 – 2015,close to 14,000 housing units in the Southern California region (minus San Diego) were targeted by CEQA lawsuits.

Along with the need to reform CEQA, the state must also make significant changes to prevailing wage requirements for new home construction. Prevailing wage is essentially the average hourly pay for construction work within a specific geographic region, and it applies to a wide variety of trades including carpenters, electricians, and plumbers.

Under state law, home builders are required to pay prevailing wage on most low-income housing developments receiving public financing, thus leading to a substantial increase in costs. A report from the California Homebuilding Foundation found that prevailing wage requirements can mean as much as a 37 percent increase in construction costs, which equates to about $84,000 for a typical new home.

To avoid adding additional hurdles to housing growth, it’s imperative that any new prevailing wage requirement fully recognizes, with metrics, the economic realities of each geographic region throughout the state.

Finally, there needs to be an increased opposition against overly restrictive local land-use laws often adopted as a result of pressure by residents intent on stopping new housing. According to the California Building Industry Association, approximately two-thirds of cities and counties in the state’s coastal metropolitan areas have adopted growth control laws which severely limit new housing opportunities.

In those cases where new housing developments are approved, residents will often seek to curtail new home construction by placing “slow growth” or “no growth” measures on the ballot. Cities including Costa Mesa, Thousand Oaks, and Redondo Beach are among several Southern California municipalities that have passed voter-approved initiatives which effectively limit new housing.

It’s because of these types of legal impediments that the Building Industry Association of Southern California formed the nonprofit Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation, which has worked tirelessly to protect the home building industry from laws and regulations aimed at preventing new housing.

There is only one way out of California’s housing crisis, and that’s to ensure that home builders can do business in a legislative and regulatory environment where actual construction can take place.

Jeff Montejano serves as CEO of the Building Industry Association of Southern California. Headquartered in Irvine, the Building Industry Association of Southern California is a leading advocate for thousands of building industry leaders who are committed to a better future for California by building communities, creating jobs and ensuring housing opportunities for everyone.

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Don’t let state regulators limit energy choice in California

As mayors of Diamond Bar, Rosemead and West Covina, we collectively represent more than 200,000 constituents in the San Gabriel Valley — constituents who work hard to provide for their families, and in some cases, their businesses.

Like most Californians, one of the top concerns of San Gabriel Valley residents is affordability. It’s no secret that the California dream is getting more and more expensive, which is why it troubles us that the California Public Utilities Commission plans to force Californians to eliminate natural gas from their homes and go all-electric.

Many of our constituents have no idea the state fully intends to eliminate the use of natural gas in every California building, including homes. When we tell them what is happening they are incredulous and outraged because they love their natural gas stoves and appliances. How can it be that such an issue would not be debated in public?

We understand and support California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately reach carbon-neutrality, but we cannot support an unnecessary added financial burden for our constituents. The vast majority of Southern Californians use natural gas in their homes for things like cooking, heating and laundry, and if the state mandates they replace those natural gas appliances with electric ones, they could be looking at an additional $7,000 in equipment and utility costs. Having to spend thousands of dollars to comply with this potential statewide policy would decimate the budgets of many of our constituents.

But all-electric buildings aren’t the only way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Studies have shown that using renewable natural gas (RNG) as a fuel source is 2-3 times more cost-effective than switching to all-electric buildings. RNG is made from food waste, wastewater, agricultural and forest waste that is currently emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. By capturing the methane emitted when this waste decomposes, we can keep traditional natural gas in the ground and address an emissions source. Some of us had the opportunity to visit a renewable natural gas facility recently and found the process to be amazing.

An RNG solution would allow California to reach its emissions-reduction goals sooner than requiring people to switch to using only electricity in their home s— because it may take decades for most people to replace their natural gas appliances.

Our constituents know that using one source of energy will make energy less reliable. They also know that renewable electricity costs more and that (already expensive) electric rates are predicted to increase — due to the need for more transmission lines, the cost of wildfires and wildfire prevention.

We urge all the CPUC commissioners to consider renewable natural gas to address carbon emissions from homes and businesses. Solar, wind and batteries are important clean energy solutions, but they can’t meet California’s energy needs alone. Solar and wind are intermittent sources and batteries can never store the amount of renewable electricity we need. Developing clean fuels including renewable natural gas will support renewable electricity to create a reliable energy system that truly reduces carbon emissions

Collectively, we have more than 50 years of experience, and one thing is clear to us: California’s strategy of eliminating emissions from homes by taking out natural gas is not the solution. People don’t want to go all-electric. Instead we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach carbon-neutrality with a variety of options that includes renewable natural gas.

We encourage all Californians to send emails to the CPUC at public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov to express your desire to keep natural gas and renewable natural gas as energy options in California.

Margaret Clark is mayor of Rosemead and serves as first vice president of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG). Carol Herrera is the mayor of Diamond Bar. Lloyd Johnson is the mayor of West Covina.

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Intended to protect consumers, Prop. 65 has become a threat to small businesses

When the voters of the state passed Proposition 65, we did so with the intent of protecting people from chemicals that are serious threats to the environment or people’s health.  We did not intend to create a method for unscrupulous attorneys to put small businesses out of business based on meritless technicalities. Unfortunately, Prop. 65 has been used quite a bit for the latter.

Proposition 65 works by requiring businesses to give proper warning to consumers when products contain dangerous chemicals that have been linked to cancer or birth defects.  A problem arises when the overzealous take this mandate too far.  We saw this first-hand recently in the debate over whether every coffee you order on your way to work needs to come with a cancer warning.  The overzealousness has two side effects: it can result in label fatigue – who takes warnings seriously if they are ubiquitous?

And it has a huge cost to small businesses.  The battle over labeling everyday items like coffee and beer, while sounding silly, was very real in my neck of the woods.  A local coffee shop was almost put out of business by someone who made absurd claims (and threats) based on the coffee shop serving him beer.  Thus, while Proposition 65 compliance can be a minor nuisance to large companies, it can mean a death sentence to smaller businesses.

Many lawyers genuinely care about the environment and health.  But when predatory lawyers come after small businesses for technical Prop. 65 violations, the businesses are often left with two bad choices: try to fight the claim in court or reach a settlement agreement, no matter how ridiculous the alleged violation may be.  Since many small-business owners know that even if they win in court, it will cost them a lot of money and time, they often settle just to be done with it.  Many of the bad actors also target business owners who speak poor English, thinking that immigrant business owners will be even more likely to settle.  This is morally wrong.

In my time in the legislature, I worked to curb aggressive Prop. 65 litigation by introducing legislation to protect small businesses and ensure that Prop. 65 is used as intended, rather than as a settlement cash cow for unscrupulous individuals. Under my proposals, businesses could be given proper warning before they suddenly find themselves blindsided by a lawsuit in which they are labelled as a defendant. After all, as we’ve seen, it can often be much more difficult than it appears to determine which products warrant special warnings under Prop. 65.

Now, it is time for the California legislature to pick up where I left off and make smart reforms to Prop. 65.  By better clarifying its requirements and reigning in loopholes that create an environment that fosters meritless litigation, we can both honor the original intent of the measure to keep people safe without risking our small business climate. Proposition 65 can play an important role in keeping our environment clean and our bodies healthy.  But it falls on our shoulders from time to time to update any good law to that we address abuses that have manifested.

Small businesses help to keep California’s communities and its economy strong.  By implementing the proper reforms, we can allow them to continue to grow and spark the innovation for which our state is known, without the fear of meritless lawsuits.

Mike Gatto, a Democrat, served four terms in the California State Assembly, in a district that includes Los Angeles, Glendale, and Burbank.

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Trump and California at it again

President Donald Trump and the Democrats who dominate California politics are locked into a rather bizarre, symbiotic relationship.

Almost daily, they fire political and legal bullets at each other across 2,728 miles – by highway – of American soil, each knowing that no matter how strange the missives may appear to ordinary folks, there’s no penalty to be paid.

Trump shores up his standing among his core supporters by jibing at California. And the state’s politicos, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, play to the anti-Trump sentiments of their voters.

The latest incarnation of this syndrome is legislation, now awaiting Newsom’s signature, that would require any candidate for president in 2020 to release five years of income tax returns as a precondition to appearing on California’s presidential primary ballot.

It’s a reaction to Trump’s refusal to reveal his income tax returns, thus defying what has become a presidential custom, albeit one not required by law.

Newsom will almost certainly sign the legislation, Senate Bill 27, which cleared both legislative houses on party-line votes, even though his predecessor, Jerry Brown, vetoed a similar measure two years ago.

Brown had refused to reveal his own income tax returns and warned the bill “may not be constitutional” and could create “a slippery slope” precedent.

“Today we require tax returns, but what would be next?” Brown wrote in his veto message. “Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?”

Brown’s point was well-taken. Not only would such a law open the door to all sorts of political mischief, but it would not be confined to California. Red states – and there are more of them than blue ones – could retaliate by compelling Democratic candidates to go through other hoops.

That said, it’s not likely to happen because federal judges are not likely to allow states to impose their own qualifications on presidential candidates beyond those contained in the U.S. Constitution. To wit: “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of president; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.”

As a state Senate analysis of SB 27 pointed out, “While the courts have not ruled directly on this question, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on ballot access requirements for congressional candidates and has held that states and the federal government cannot add to the qualifications of senator or congressional representatives outlined in the federal Constitution.”

Sen. Mike McGuire, a Healdsburg Democrat, insists that his measure has nothing to do with personal or partisan politics and everything to do with good government.

“Transparency is a nonpartisan issue,” he says. “And it’s transparency that provides the basis for accountability in government. For the past 40 years, every U.S. president – Republicans and Democrats alike – have released their tax returns. That is, until President Trump took office.”

Even if upheld by the courts, as unlikely as that seems, the measure would not damage Trump. He has no chance of winning California’s electoral votes next year and would use it to bolster the state’s image as a kooky outlier in more conventional battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin.

In other words, it could backfire and help Trump win re-election.

CalMmatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary

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Don’t expect the impeachment sideshow to go away after first effort fails

After over two years, the Democrats finally delivered on their threat to try to impeach President Trump. The only problem is, it was defeated with 137 Democrats voting against impeachment.

Of course, the Democrats may have rejected the first official effort to impeach President Trump, but that doesn’t mean this political sideshow is over. Why? Well, there’s just no such thing as a moderate Democrat anymore — those who voted against impeachment merely represent a more cautious brand of radicalism.

Democrat Representative Al Green used House rules to force a vote on an impeachment resolution against the wishes of the Democratic leadership. The vote to quash Green’s initiative took place, somewhat poetically, on the same day that Democrats had originally planned to hear testimony from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That hearing had already been pushed back by a week, but Green jumped the gun and brought his measure to the House floor.

The resolution was dramatically defeated, with 332 members voting to table it, including a solid majority of Democrats. Only 95 members supported impeachment, but 137 Democrats joined every single Republican — as well as ex-Republican Rep. Justin Amash, who abandoned the Party after coming out in favor of impeachment — in opposing the effort.

But as Byron York notes, the real significance of the impeachment vote is not that the measure was defeated, but that 95 members of Congress actually voted to impeach the president without any legitimate basis for their votes. Even though Green’s resolution was based on the flimsiest of pretexts — it calls for removing President Trump from office based on allegedly “racist comments,” but doesn’t accuse him of any actual crime — it still managed to secure nearly half of the 215 votes required for articles of impeachment to pass the House.

Rest assured, the Democrats will be back at the impeachment table before long.

The Democrats killed Green’s resolution for purely tactical reasons. They’re in broad agreement about their hatred for President Trump, but some Democrats question whether libelling the President is the most effective means of achieving their ultimate goal of impeachment.

“We’ll deal with Mr. Green’s resolution, but we do have a third path,” House Speaker Pelosi said during her weekly press briefing the day after Green filed his resolution. That third path, evidently, goes through the Special Counsel’s Office and Robert Mueller’s upcoming congressional testimony, because Pelosi made a point of mentioning that the Democrats already “have six committees working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and the rest.”

Mueller’s testimony is just the newest centerpiece of the Democrats’ impeachment strategy. Mueller, they hope, will provide political cover for the their nakedly partisan motives — perhaps to atone for letting them down with his official report, which found no collusion and no obstruction. Without Mueller’s compliance, many Democrats are unwilling to endure the inevitable public backlash that will follow any attempt to remove the president from office without cause.

Representative Devin Nunes recently claimed that Democrats have even opened backchannels to Mueller in order to plant “helpful phrases” in his testimony. According to Nunes, Mueller only needs to mention a few key buzzwords because “90% of the media will take one little phrase and run with it and try to run towards impeachment.”

This shocking assertion clarifies the logic of the 137 Democrats who voted against the articles of impeachment: they recognize that Green’s impeachment case only appeals to far-left radicals in the party’s base while it alienates the moderate swing voters who will decide the outcome of the 2020 elections. Its anti-Trump animus is simply too transparent.

Pelosi’s “third path,” conversely, aims to launder the Democrats’ political motives through Robert Mueller. Knowing they can count on the complicit mainstream media to regurgitate their talking points as fact, the Democrats expect that they’ll be able to cover their dirty motives with a thin veneer of neutrality.

President Trump and congressional Republicans must brace themselves for the circus that will come to Capitol Hill when Mueller testifies before Congress on Wednesday, and they must be ready to expose the so-called “moderates” on the other side of the aisle for the radicals they really are.

President Trump came away with a major, lopsided victory following the Democrats’ first official attempt to impeach him, but this certainly won’t be the last we hear on this matter from Nancy Pelosi’s wayward band of extremists.

Joseph diGenova was US Attorney for the District of Columbia and an Independent Counsel. He is the founding partner of diGenova & Toensing, LLP.

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