Charter schools act more like private schools: Letters

Re “Let parents choose their children’s school” (Letters, Sept. 12):

Telling detail from charter school advocate Chuck Trout’s letter to the editor. He says charters are great “compared with public schools.”

Aren’t charter schools supposed to be public schools? Therein lies the problem with many (not all) charter schools: They want the benefit of public funding, but essentially operate as private schools.

— Jeff Marbut, Fountain Valley

Let’s talk about ‘Responsibility for All’

Re “Bernie’s latest bailout proposal” (Editorial, Sept. 9):

Before we have a national conversation about “Medicare For All,” we need to discuss “Responsibility for All.”

For instance, if your doctor tells you to stop smoking, stop drinking, lose weight, eat nutritious foods, curtail certain activities, and so on, but you ignore your doctor’s sage advice and then have medical issues because you continue to make unhealthy choices, why should fellow Americans foot the bill?

— Robin Itzler, Cypress

Pay attention to what Trump does, not says

To understand Trump, first stop comparing him using old politician standards. Politicians make all kinds of promises before getting into office, none of which they plan to keep.

Politicians do not solve problems, they only manage problems, most of which they have created themselves. Any solutions they do come up with usually create two more problems to take their place. Politicians do not take into account the law of unintended consequences, only if it “feels good.”

President Trump is a businessman, solving problems, not managing them. He does not sanitize his comments or couch in political speak terms. He has succeeded in many of the programs called for in his election campaign despite the fake media and deep state bureaucrats.

He has lowered taxes, reduced regulations, new trade agreements, reduced unemployment, growing stock market and etc. Making some progress on border security and health care.

Unfortunately, the Democrat House would rather work on impeachment than take this opportunity to clean up the corruption in Washington.

I do have something in common with “Trump haters” in the left-wing media — I have not met President Trump nor do I know him personally. I am more interested in what he does than what he says.

— Grover Havens, Orange

Effects of population growths on infrastructure

Re “Broadway concerns turn into shouts” (News, Aug. 29):

I have lived along the mid-east end of Broadway for my entire 76 years. I have walked, roller skated, biked and driven the length of it for those many years. The real change I have seen is the gigantic population and resulting car growth that are overwhelming our infrastructure and resources in general.

I was born when the world population was 3 billion and Long Beach about 165,000. Now the world population is 7.5-plus billion and Long Beach’s population about 470,000.

Broadway was there then and is there now, so you can parse the traffic lanes any way you want but the core problem is simply that there is just too much demand. Forget the “Road Diet,” what we need is a “Population Diet.”

— Bob Hoffman, Long Beach

All children suffer

Re “U.S. watchdog: Separated migrant children suffered trauma” (News, Sept. 5):

I have a heart for children that are suffering. This article only addresses illegal immigrant children’s trauma.

This trauma can be found with thousands of American kids whose parents break the law and are hauled off to jail to leave their kids in the hands of the system.

This is a painful reality for children’s parents who decide to break the law. I would put the onus on these parents, not American policies. I would never do this to my children.— Shawn Ferguson, Westminster

Kudos to Girl Scout

Re “Girl Scout playwright helps take homeless man’s life to the stage” (News, Sept. 2):

You, go girl!

— Michelle Chilvers Murphy, Orange

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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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Why you’re right to oppose homeless housing in your neighborhood

For people who support more government control and less freedom, the goal is always to break the connection between effort and reward.

That’s how they justify government redistribution of private property and anything else that one person enjoys but another person doesn’t have.

And that’s how a person who stays in school, doesn’t do drugs, works hard for years and eventually earns a good salary can be taxed to the max to help the “less fortunate,” while a person who makes horrendous life choices acquires a right to receive government checks.

The premise is that people do not deserve either the good or bad circumstances of their lives, so it’s morally right for government to mix it up a little.

One result of this type of thinking is a policy known as “economic integration,” offered as a solution to “economic segregation.” The idea is to have the government encourage “mixed-income” housing developments where people of different income levels all live in the same building. Government officials award the designated “affordable” housing units in the otherwise unaffordable location to a lucky few of “the less fortunate.” That makes the tenants who pay market-rate rents “the more fortunate,” as if they’re getting something they didn’t earn.

That’s how it’s done. Government power breaks the connection between effort and reward. The government’s power is enhanced, and all that’s left to do is hand out the awards for humanitarianism.

One way the government can implement this type of policy is to make housing construction next to impossible and then offer waivers granting permission for projects that meet particular government requirements. This has been the direction of policy in California. But it doesn’t create many units of “affordable housing,” and it raises the price of the market-rate units in the developments in order to cover the cost of the below-market units.

If the only goal was to end the housing crisis in California, there are other policies that would accomplish more. Reforming state laws that were passed to discourage exurban “sprawl” would open up land for new residential communities. Limiting the use of residential housing units for short-term rentals might create an oversupply of apartments overnight.

Of course, these policies would not accomplish the real goal, which is to increase government power. That’s accomplished by breaking the connection between effort and reward.

However, today there is an issue that threatens to end this game.

Throughout history, cities have had laws on the books to maintain the free use of sidewalks and the intended use of public spaces such as parks and plazas. There’s a reason for that, and if you drive around any city in California today, you can see the reason almost everywhere.

In California and elsewhere, laws against sitting, lying or sleeping on the sidewalk have been declared to be a violation of the civil rights of people that officials call, at least in Los Angeles, “our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness.”

City officials have pushed a “housing first” policy. They convinced voters to pass a tax increase that is supposed to build 10,000 units of supportive housing for the homeless with a $1.2 billion bond paid for by property owners. However, there’s something in the way: All the people who have worked hard to buy a house and who want to enjoy the fruits of their efforts in peace and safety.

People rightfully object to having their neighborhood made the site of a homeless housing development, along with the homeless service providers and drop-off sites likely to follow. They don’t want to see the “waiting list” for a homeless housing project spilling out onto the sidewalks that their kids use to walk to school. They don’t want their street turned into another block of Skid Row.

But when the goal is to sever the connection between effort and reward, it makes perfect sense to give away free apartments with no sobriety requirement for tenants, and to insult the tax-paying neighbors if they don’t like it.

The only way to break up this game is to throw the bums out. The politicians, that is.

Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Susan@SusanShelley.com. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

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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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Court ruling upholds ban on public funding of political campaigns

It’s no secret that California, perhaps America’s most progressive state, is controlled by a political establishment openly hostile to the interests of taxpayers. Taxpayer victories over the state’s liberal power structure are rare, but they do happen.

Last week, taxpayers prevailed in a long running lawsuit involving public funding for political campaigns. The dispute began in 2016 when the Legislature passed, and the governor signed, Senate Bill 1107, which purported to amend a part of the Political Reform Act of 1974.

The Act itself was previously amended in 1988 by Proposition 73, an initiative measure that expressly prohibited public funding of political campaigns. SB1107 attempted to reverse the ban by permitting public funding of political campaigns under certain circumstances.

There was just one problem: Initiative statutes, laws that are approved by voters, cannot be amended by the California Legislature except by a vote of the people or under circumstances permitted by the initiative itself.

The SB1107 litigation is important because of the underlying policies involved. California voters don’t like public funding of campaigns – and for good reason. First, taxpayers expect that their tax dollars will go to basic public services such as education, transportation and public safety. There is something unseemly about giving money to government only to be transferred to private individuals so that they can advance their own political careers. Second, giving taxpayer dollars to candidates or causes with which one disagrees raises First Amendment concerns. Third, taxpayers have no control over how the funds are spent, including for misleading or even obscene campaign ads.

Californians have left no doubt about their views on public financing of political campaigns.

In 2006, Proposition 89 appeared on the ballot, a measure that would have permitted such funding. Voters crushed Prop. 89 by a stunning 74% to 26% margin. Because SB1107 was so clearly contrary to the letter and spirit of the Act, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and former state Sen. Quentin Kopp, who was the author of Proposition 73, challenged the 2016 law as an improper legislative amendment of a voter initiative. Taxpayers prevailed in the trial court, which invalidated SB1107 and stopped it from going into effect.

However, losing defendants Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Fair Political Practices Commission appealed to the Third District Court of Appeal. They argued that the trial court, in finding that SB1107 conflicted with the Act, misconstrued its purposes. They asserted that the trial court was wrong to find that a primary purpose of the Act was to ban public financing of political campaigns. They asserted that SB1107, by permitting public funding of political campaigns, actually furthers the more general purposes of the Act — to shrink the influence of large donors and reduce campaign spending.

But the Court of Appeal would have none of that, finding that SB1107 directly conflicts with a primary purpose and mandate of the Act, as amended by subsequent voter initiatives, to prohibit public funding of political campaigns. Accordingly, it found that the legislation does not further the purposes of the Act, a requirement for its amendment by the legislature.

In enacting Proposition 73, California voters decided to prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used as political slush funds. If politicians want to change that, they must take the issue back to voters. But after several initiatives reaffirming the will of Californians to ban taxpayer funding, it’s pretty obvious why political elites won’t try.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

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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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President Trump not afraid to stand up to China: Letters

The recent announcement of another round of tariffs on China and their response appears to be a further step in our full-fledged trade war. And this has provoked the predictable round of criticisms of the president’s policy.

What always seems to be lacking, though, is the offer of any credible alternative. By credible, I would not include the economic Armageddon of total cessation of trade between the two biggest economies in the world.

It is illuminating that China is fighting so hard against, among other things, giving up the practice of intellectual property theft in the furtherance of their goal of world economic domination. Of course, we could just roll over and let them take it, but President Trump has taken the courageous step of standing up to them, which other presidents have either failed or declined to do.

The point is that we are all in this together and our economy is stronger now than at any time in recent history. So the question we must answer is: “If not now, when?” If we present China with a more united front in this war, we will stand a much better chance of ending it sooner and on better terms.

— Ed Klopfenstein, Brea

Build the cemetery

Re “Paperwork for another ballot measure filed to change veterans cemetery location in Irvine” (News, Aug. 12):

I think it is shameful that Larry Agran and other politicians who avoided serving their country, militarily, can delay a veteran’s cemetery for so long.

I am an 88-year-old Korean War vet who does not want any family members who wish to visit my grave, have to travel over two hours each way. Please push the project forward and stop the nonsense and delaying tactics. Build the cemetery.

— Art Schlosser, Laguna Woods

Carnage will continue

Re “Looking for answers after mass shootings” (Editorial, Aug. 8):

With a racist and hater in the White House and the NRA in his pocket, nothing will be done. We need to ban the sales of assault rifles. Period. No citizen needs that kind of rifle, except to kill people.

We, as Americans, need to ban together to outlaw assault weapons. Until that day comes, the carnage will continue. Next time it will be in your hometown or mine. I don’t want to wait that long.

— Carrie Chotiner, Laguna Niguel

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