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Posts Tagged ‘California’
April 17th, 2015 at 1:32 pm
A Market-Based Solution to California’s Water Shortage

California’s water crisis – and Governor Jerry Brown’s draconian response to it – could go a long way toward uniting middle class and elite urbanites in a revolt against political favoritism run amuck.

As Shikha Dalmia explains, “The best — and most sustainable — solution to California’s water woes would be full-bore markets in which prices can rise and fall with supply and demand. Under such a system, depleting water reserves would have led to price increases long ago, producing an automatic incentive to conserve. More importantly, this would have clearly signaled growing scarcity, spurring new technologies for affordable water generation. All of this would have allowed consumers and businesses to make small adjustments over time without letting the shortage reach a crisis point.”

“Moving overnight to a system of market-based water pricing is probably not doable,” she continues. “But if California has to make emergency cuts, it would make sense to impose the biggest cuts on the biggest users — which means the deepest cuts for fish-rescuing environmentalists, followed by water-hogging farmers, followed by residential users. Instead, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is doing the exact opposite.”

The constituencies being hit the hardest by Brown’s mandatory water usage reduction order are rich enclaves like Beverley Hills and Newport Beach, and middle class urban residents who already pay the highest rates for water, but use the least when compared to other groups.

Those outside California may not remember that what ultimately led to Governor Gray Davis’ successful recall was his support for tripling the annual vehicle license fee. Californians will put up with a lot from politicians, but making it exorbitantly expensive to enjoy basic comforts like driving and water consumption could be just the disruption it takes to break the liberal stranglehold on state government and implement the kind of market-based reforms Dalmia is promoting.

We’ll see if Governor Moonbeam gets the hint, or sacrifices millions of people’s well-being for the sake of his beloved environmental movement. If he indulges the latter, there could be an opportunity for another California taxpayers’ revolt like the one that put a stop to annual property tax spikes in the 1970s.

April 16th, 2015 at 6:57 pm
California’s Water Wars Heat Up

A fight is brewing in California between state regulators and local water suppliers over how to cope with mandatory water usage reductions ordered by Governor Jerry Brown.

California’s State Water Resources Control Board received more than 200 letters from cities, counties, and water districts balking at the proposed regulatory structure for monitoring compliance.

Criticisms include:

  • Monthly water usage rates are “meaningless” because varying temperatures and rainfall fluctuate dramatically during the year
  • Lack of credit given to water agencies that have already reduced their usage rates through local conservation programs or locally financed desalinization projects
  • Farmers outside the Central Valley – the state’s agricultural hub – being treated the same as urban districts which do not get an exemption
  • Failure to subject public school and college campuses to the same water use restrictions imposed on cities, since the former often are able to “override local building and zoning codes”

Everyone in California is feeling the pinch of decades’ worth of neglected improvements to water storage capacity.

Thanks to ‘green’ environmentalism, much of California may soon be brown.

H/T: L.A. Times

April 9th, 2015 at 8:27 pm
Eradicating Marijuana Plants Would Save 63 Billion Gallons of Water in California

In 2006, the last time the Drug Enforcement Agency counted the number of outdoor marijuana plants in California, there were roughly 17.5 million.

Since then the number has likely increased significantly due to lack of enforcement by the Obama administration and the effective decriminalization of marijuana use by lax police departments.

Even so, as Ethan Epstein explains, if we take the 2006 figure as a baseline and add to it the fact that a marijuana plant soaks up about six gallons of water per day during its 150-day growing season, California could have saved 63 billion gallons of water since the start of the drought four years ago.

Imagine the savings if California officials got serious about curtailing illegal marijuana growing today.

If Governor Jerry Brown wants to find ways to reduce unnecessary water consumption he should start by uprooting the millions of illegally grown marijuana plants. Had the plants not been siphoning off a precious natural resource over the course of the drought, California could have saved 15 percent of the total Brown wants to recoup through rationing.

In other words, cut off the crooks before knee-capping the law-abiding.

April 9th, 2015 at 6:22 pm
Get the Government Out of Your… Toilet?

California Governor Jerry Brown’s new water rationing edict is giving state regulators the cover they need to impose all kinds of nanny state restrictions on law-abiding citizens.

In addition to installing ‘smart meters’ on businesses and homes to monitor water usage and impose fines, the California Energy Commission is using Brown’s executive order to increase the use of low-flow appliances. Beginning in January 2016, all toilets and faucets sold in the state must conform to higher water efficiency standards.

“Wednesday’s vote also sets a 1.28 gallon maximum water flow for toilets, putting in place a limit included in a 2007 law but never formally translated into water-efficiency regulations,” reports the Sacramento Bee.

It’s hard to believe that a state so friendly to the environmental lobby as California would have failed to implement even more restrictions when it had the chance, unless doing so would be extremely burdensome and therefore unpopular. Now, however, they can simply claim an emergency and ignore the outcry.

February 24th, 2015 at 4:26 pm
Fed Regs May Level Playing Field between California & Texas

Texas has long been held up as the free market alternative to California’s regulation-heavy approach to public policy. Companies like Raytheon and Toyota have relocated because of the cheaper price of doing business, as have thousands of individuals.

But the competitive advantage that Texas enjoys over California could come to a screeching halt if the federal government imposes California-style regulations on the states.

The description of a March 12 event in Houston explains the threat.

“California’s tough environmental rules and planning represent the wave of the future to many planners and pundits, as well as to large parts of the federal government,” says the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. “The goal is to rein in ‘sprawl,’ based largely on questionable environmental and urban design considerations. California consciously seeks to impose a high-density, transit-focused future on the residents of the state.”

It continues, “But California’s policies do not just affect Californians. Many federal agencies, including the EPA and US Fish and Wildlife Service, have embraced the Golden State’s regulations on climate change, wetland and endangered species protections, as role models to be adopted nationally. As California-style regulations diffuse through the federal government, Texas business could soon be subject to many of the same programs and policies.”

This is a good reminder that vigilance at the federal level is necessary to protect economic freedom back home.

February 20th, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Feds Send Out 800,000 Incorrect ObamaCare Tax Forms

First Uncle Bear, now Uncle Sam.

“The Obama administration says it sent about 800,000 HealthCare.gov customers the wrong tax information, and officials are asking those consumers to delay filing their 2014 taxes,” reports CNBC.

The massive blunder comes on the heels of a similar admission by California officials that the state sent out approximately 100,000 error-laden tax forms to residents using the state’s ObamaCare exchange, Covered California.

No timeline was apparent on when revised forms would be sent out, or whether early tax filers would be penalized by the Internal Revenue Service for submitting unknowingly false information.

Another item in the CNBC report may foreshadow the next move. Due to concerns that some people will be angered for being penalized for not buying insurance to comply with ObamaCare’s coverage mandate, the Obama administration is creating another sign-up extension.

Perhaps the IRS will get similar instructions from on high and bump back the filing deadline.

If so, expect to hear the millions of non-ObamaCare customers clamor, “Me too!”

February 17th, 2015 at 7:58 pm
California ObamaCare Exchange Sends Out Nearly 100,000 Error-Laden Tax Forms

The CBS affiliate in San Francisco is reporting on a massive failure by the state’s ObamaCare exchange to correctly reconcile information on customers with health insurance providers.

“About 100,000 or 12 percent of the forms generated by Covered California have inaccuracies,” says the report. The forms are needed by California ObamaCare users to claim tax refunds and verify subsidy amounts with the IRS.

A spokesperson for Covered California said the inaccuracies are due in large part to discrepancies between the state’s records and what the insurance companies have. Despite this, the exchange sent out the forms anyway to beat the February 2 deadline.

Corrected forms are scheduled to go out later this month, but it’s unclear whether all of the 100,000 or so recipients of the inaccurate forms know they are bad. If not, they could be submitting false information to the IRS, an issue that could cause considerable problems down the road.

Expect this to add to the ire already forming ahead of Tax Day.

September 29th, 2014 at 5:07 pm
California’s ObamaCare Exchange Can’t Match Doctors to Plans

If you purchase an ObamaCare plan in California, good luck trying to find a directory that matches your insurance policy with a specific doctor.

“Altogether, the 10 insurers in Covered California have contracted with an estimated 75% of California’s licensed physicians, or nearly 90% of those considered active in the state,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “However, many of those doctors are available in just one or two health plans.”

That is, if you can find them.

“There’s no timetable for a state provider directory after the exchange scrapped an initial version that was riddled with errors. Instead, Covered California refers people to insurance company websites that vary in usefulness,” says the paper.

The resulting anger and confusion has spawned almost 300 complaints to state regulators and two consumer lawsuits against some of the biggest insurance companies in California.

Doctors are getting hosed too, according to the report. “Insurers say they can pass along savings by paying doctors less and rewarding that select group with higher patient volume. It’s also hoped those doctors will take on a bigger role coordinating patient care.”

To clarify, in return for getting paid less doctors that accept ObamaCare-compliant plans are getting more patients and more exposure to medical malpractice lawsuits.

No wonder there’s no directory matching providers to plans. The docs want to hide!

May 15th, 2014 at 1:02 pm
ObamaCare’s Medicaid Expansion Will Cost California an Additional $1.2 Billion

“Nearly one-third of California’s total population – roughly 11.5 million people – will be enrolled in Medi-Cal next year, according to Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration,” reports the L.A. Times.

“Enrollment is expected to exceed previous estimates by 1.4 million, and administration officials said it would cost the state $1.2 billion more than originally thought.”

Brown’s health policy czar calls the jump in enrollment part of the “woodworking effect;” meaning that the media’s attention on ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges enticed many people to sign up, only to find out they already qualified for Medi-Cal (California’s name for its Medicaid program).

Readers may recall that ObamaCare expands eligibility for Medicaid into higher income brackets. To get states to go along, ObamaCare pays for all of the new spending associated with covering these new enrollees (at least until 2017). But for those who would have qualified under the old system – where states contribute 50 cents to every dollar spent – the state gets no relief.

This is the scenario California finds itself in as officials head into the budget negotiation season needing to find an additional $1.4 billion they didn’t plan for.

Ever the populist, Brown is reframing Sacramento’s miscalculation as a case of voters needing to fund their good intentions. “I’m proud we did it,” referring to the expansion as “a huge social commitment on the part of the taxpayers of California.” “But we also have to take into account this thing is growing.”

May 9th, 2014 at 1:31 pm
Podcast: Donor Disclosure Requirements Infringe on First Amendment Rights
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Allen Dickerson, Legal Director at the Center for Competitive Politics, discusses why the California Attorney General’s demand for the list of supporters to a non-profit organization damages freedom of association, violates the clear terms of a federal tax law and ignores the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.

Listen to the interview here.

May 1st, 2014 at 8:01 pm
Toyota Votes for Texas over California

Toyota is moving its U.S. headquarters from Torrance, CA to Plano, TX. The move is estimated to generate a combined $140 million annually in local property and sales taxes for the Dallas suburb.

The announcement comes on the heels of at least 250 other California-based companies heading to the Lone Star State, according the Dallas Morning News.

Industry icons include Occidental Petroleum Corp. moving some of its facilities from Los Angeles to Houston; Raytheon Co. transferring aerospace units to McKinney from Southern California; and Trend Micro Inc. changing its corporate address from Silicon Valley to Irving.

For his part, California Governor Jerry Brown isn’t concerned. “We’ve got a few problems, we have lots of little burdens and regulations and taxes, but smart people figure out how to make it [in the state],” he said at an event when asked about Toyota.

Then again, maybe smart people will opt for pro-business locations that don’t inflict “lots of little burdens and regulations and taxes.”

March 20th, 2014 at 8:49 pm
New Food Labels: A $2 Billion Exercise in Irrelevancy
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Troy Senik, CFIF Senior Fellow, former speechwriter for George W. Bush and senior editor of Ricochet, discusses First Lady Michelle Obama’s push for new FDA nutritional labeling guidelines and the lessons learned from California’s regime of high taxes, oppressive regulation and rampant litigation.

Listen to the interview here.

March 19th, 2014 at 12:18 pm
California’s ObamaCare Exchange Expands Coverage, But at What Cost?

There is a lot of misreporting with ObamaCare numbers as the open enrollment period draws to a close March 31.

Consider these two examples from California.

First, Covered California – the state’s ObamaCare exchange – announced recently that more than 1 million people had applied for coverage and chosen an insurance plan. Liberal bloggers at the Daily Kos are cheering this news as a triumph. Before the enrollment period began last October, the state set as a goal 696,000 enrollments by the end of March. At 1,018,315 as of the end of last Saturday, ObamaCare supporters think they are 300,000 over their goal.

Except Covered California isn’t anywhere close. Look again at the goal and the announcement. California wants at least 696,000 people to be enrolled by the end of March. To date, they have over 1 million people who have applied to be enrolled. That’s not the same thing. In fact, in speaking recently to a source at Medi-Cal – the state’s Medicaid program – I was told that thousands of applications are in limbo across the state because computer systems at the state and county levels don’t talk to one another. This impacts Covered California’s numbers because many of the uninsured applying for insurance through the exchange qualify for the state’s expanded Medicaid program. To compensate for the technology failure, caseworkers are processing emergency requests by hand. So to recap, don’t be fooled by news about applications posing as enrollments.

The other example of misreporting is on the type of coverage most enrollees are choosing. The most popular plans also cost the least. That’s not surprising since ObamaCare requires people to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. On one hand, the increased number of policyholders does allow ObamaCare supporters to say the law is covering more people. But at what price? “[E]xperts worry plans with lower premiums could come with a different cost: Fewer doctors and hospitals could mean fewer choices and longer waits for care,” reports the San Jose Mercury-News.

Lower premiums also mean higher out-of-pocket costs. I’ve written previously about how reporting on lower-than-expected premiums ignores across-the-board spikes in deductibles. The IRS says that annual deductibles larger than $1,250 should be considered high. On California’s exchange, it’s common for the lowest priced plans to have deductibles in excess of $2,000 annually (and some as high as $4,500 or more).

When all the dust settles after March 31, it’s very likely that California won’t have hit its enrollment goal, and that of the enrollees it does have many will come to loathe the longer wait times and higher costs. Maybe then we’ll get more help from journalists in how ObamaCare insurance actually works. But probably not.

March 10th, 2014 at 4:33 pm
California Lawmakers Agree to Raise Gas Prices 40 Cents-Per-Gallon

With California’s tax policy, the only certainty is that consumers will lose money.

The latest example is the growing fight over whether to include fuel distributors in the Golden State’s controversial global warming regulatory scheme. Doing so would subject them to the same cap-and-trade system applied to industrial facilities, and could add between 12 – 40 cents-per-gallon to fuel purchases within the next year. The leading alternative would opt for a flat 15 cent-per-gallon carbon tax, which grows to 40 cents by 2029.

In short, California lawmakers have agreed that gas should cost an additional 40 cents-per-gallon. They’re just torn over how long to wait before imposing it on taxpayers.

This is what passes for deliberation in a state dominated by tax-and-spend liberals.

No wonder the middle class is fleeing in droves.

February 13th, 2014 at 4:55 pm
A Second Amendment Victory in California
Posted by Troy Senik Print

And it comes from the most unlikely of places, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Just over the AP wires from San Francisco:

A divided federal appeals court on Thursday struck down California’s concealed weapons rules, saying they violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

By a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said California was wrong to require applicants to show good cause to receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

“The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for the majority.

Judge Sidney Thomas dissented, writing that the good cause requirement limited the number of people carrying concealed handguns in public to those legitimately in need.

This represents a massive shift in California, long home to some of the nation’s most restrictive gun control laws.

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling conflicts with those from three other federal appellate courts, which means this issue could eventually make its way to the Supreme Court . For today, anyway, Second Amendment rights are stronger in the Golden State than they have been at any time in recent memory.

December 13th, 2013 at 1:22 pm
Californians Turning on Unions?

Increasingly, Californians across nearly all age, political and demographic groups oppose organized labor, according to a new poll.

Overall, 45 percent of respondents said labor unions do “more harm than good,” while 40 percent said they do “more good than harm.”

Interestingly, it doesn’t matter whether it’s private or public employee unions. People dislike both equally.

Even Democrats are souring on one of their party’s most powerful constituencies. The independent Field Poll found that “30 percent of registered Democrats now say unions do more harm than good, up from 21 percent in the 2011 survey.”

Potential reasons include the ongoing pension and retirement benefits funding crises causing many municipalities to cut other services like public safety. An ongoing strike by public transit workers is stoking discontent in the Bay Area, heretofore a pro-union fortress.

It’s probably too early to tell how the slide in support for unions will impact California’s politics. One thing is certain, though. By overplaying their hand, unions have earned the ire of a populace predisposed to support them. If disapproval of unions turns into a clear majority, the state that touched off a wave of property tax reform in the 1970’s may become the impetus for weakening unions in the next decade.

Stay tuned.

November 22nd, 2013 at 12:35 pm
As California Goes, So Does Obama’s ‘Fix’

California’s Obamacare-aligned health insurance exchange will not bail out President Barack Obama.

Data released by Covered California, the state’s exchange, explains why.

“People between the ages of 45 and 64 have enrolled in California’s health exchange at a much higher rate than their overall portion of the state’s total population, while younger adults’ enrollment levels essentially track their overall population,” reports CNBC.

“If the trend holds up, it could mean that insurance plans are overweighted with older customers, and underweighted with younger, presumably healthier people. Since their premiums are much needed to offset the cost of benefits paid out to sicker individuals, that could lead to higher premium prices in 2015.”

In other words, Covered California – like any other Obamacare exchange – can’t afford President Obama’s costly ‘fix’ that would allow young and healthy people to keep their pre-Obamacare insurance plans and stay out of the post-Obamacare risk pools. As I explain in my column this week, doing so would lead to the dreaded ‘death spiral’ that will doom the Obamacare exchanges.

There’s no other way to say it. California’s refusal to go along with Obamacare’s latest ‘fix’ is a huge blow to President Obama. So far, the Golden State is home to the most Obamacare-related enrollments, so if it’s afraid that adopting Obama’s enforcement delay will put its fiscal sustainability in jeopardy, it’s hard to see how any other state that’s serious about the issue will disagree.

November 12th, 2013 at 2:56 pm
UCLA, Berkeley Students Ban ‘Illegal Immigrant’ From Campus

Liberalism’s word police are at it again.

Student government representatives at UCLA and UC Berkeley voted recently to ban use of the term “illegal immigrant” in on-campus “academic writing, or in communications between faculty, students and staff,” reports the University Herald.

The reasons given for the prohibition allege that saying the word ‘illegal’ is ‘racially charged’ and ‘dehumanizing’ to the people it describes. Better, the students argue, to use labels like ‘undocumented immigrants,’ ‘immigrants without papers,’ and ‘immigrants seeking status.’

This line of argument is consistent with the old trope that “no person is illegal.” Which, of course, misses the point and confuses the issue. The term illegal immigrant does not refer to a person’s humanity, but rather to his or her legal status.

Because Congress has the power under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution “To establish a uniform rule of naturalization,” it has the power to determine what qualifies as legal immigration. Foreign nationals who violate Congress’ uniform rules are, by definition and common sense, illegal immigrants. The reason illegal immigrants are “undocumented” and “without papers” is because they are “seeking [legal] status” without wanting to undergo the legal process.

No serious person disputes this. What the UC students really mean to convey with their vote is that the very idea of distinguishing between legal and illegal immigration is itself racially charged and dehumanizing. Having rejected the idea that American citizenship requires accepting certain fundamental beliefs, these enlightened collegians would extend the blessings of liberty without requiring a reciprocal commitment to respect the laws and mores of the community that make these blessings possible.

In other words: All of the benefits, none of the responsibilities.

Sounds like sophomoric reasoning to me…

October 4th, 2013 at 12:05 pm
California’s Obamacare Exchange Can’t Tell the Truth

Disfiguring the truth seems to be one of the primary skill sets at Covered California, the state’s Obamacare-aligned insurance exchange.

When the online platform launched on Tuesday, it erroneously stated receiving 5 million hits. A day later, that number was revised down to 645,000.

“Someone misspoke and thought it was indeed 5 million hits. That was incorrect,” said a Covered California spokesman.

This isn’t the first time the Golden State’s Obamacare exchange has been caught misstating the truth.

Earlier this year it misleadingly announced that individual insurance premiums in 2014 would be lower than they are today. The news was quickly circulated as a refutation of the criticism that Obamacare’s heightened coverage requirements will necessarily result in more expensive plans.

But Covered California’s own press release showed that the exchange was comparing apples to oranges. Instead of comparing individual insurance rates from 2013 to 2014, it compared small business rates from 2013 to individual rates in 2014. This sleight-of-hand had the effect of creating a more favorable (i.e. higher) baseline from which to compare Obamacare’s higher individual rates.

In other words, it was a distortion meant to persuade people that Obamacare does the opposite of what it actually did.

And now Covered California is issuing “incorrect” opening day numbers that artificially inflate its popularity.

Call me a cynic, but I think I see a pattern here…

September 10th, 2013 at 5:56 pm
Welcome to California Higher Ed, Janet

If you think President Barack Obama has a difficult job delivering an on-the-fly speech about the situation in Syria, consider what his former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is about to step into.

In language that’s better suited for an updated version of the movie PCU, a gaggle of liberal student groups in the University of California system sent a letter to Napolitano, who became UC’s first female president upon leaving the Obama administration.

After introducing themselves as “student leaders in the statewide multicultural progressive coalition that represents students who are underrepresented and marginalized within the UC System,” the petitioners “demand that you [Napolitano] implement the following across the UC system.”

These include “making the system a ‘sanctuary’ for illegal immigrants, barring the use of system funds or resources going to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (which Napolitano oversaw in her previous job), impose mandatory sensitivity training on campus police and prohibit police from interfering with student demonstrations,” according to Fox News.

The letter, posted on Sunday, demands a meeting with Napolitano on Wednesday. For her trouble, the students promise to “do our best to cooperate with you in setting this up so all parties can have a productive conversation.”

Funny as it is to see a liberal like Napolitano have to take such people and demands seriously, it is still ridiculous that a highly compensated public official like her has to spend precious time and resources stoking the entitlement mentality of perennially aggrieved people.

Then again, that’s part of the job description when leading many modern higher education bureaucracies.