Intervenor Fees — The Hidden Secret of ConsumerWatchdog’s Prop 45

Steven Maviglio
Principal of Forza Communications, a Sacramento-based public affairs/campaign firm

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has awarded $2.3 million in state “intervenor” fees in 2013 to ConsumerWatchdog, the Santa Monica-based group that is sponsoring Proposition 45, a measure on the November ballot to give Jones sweeping new powers to regulate health insurance.

But wait. That information — posted on the Department of Insurance’s website a few weeks ago — no longer is available for the public nor media to see. Jones has removed from the California Department of Insurance website after a Public Records Act request was sent to his office requesting detailed information on the awards.

It’s easy to see why he would. It’s an embarrassment that underscores the cozy relationship between Jones and the bomb-throwing advocacy group.

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Tesla Incentives Debate: Hit the Brakes or Step on the Accelerator?

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Tesla Motors’ desire to build a “gigafactory” that would employee 6500 people has set off a competition among a handful of states, including California, with state officials considering incentives to benefit the electric car producer and convince Tesla to choose their state.

This week two Open Letters were produced that took different positions on addressing the competition and the debate on incentives.

The California Budget Project joined forces with similar progressive-leaning groups in other states considered by Tesla for the factory to suggest, rather than competition, there should be cooperation among the states while discouraging the use of big money incentives to lure the company.

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The Forced Union Sales Pitch Bill

Amanda Fulkerson
Spokeswoman for the Assembly Republican Caucus

Language was amended into SB 878 Wednesday night. That’s nothing new. What’s interesting about SB 878 is that the new amendments amount to one of the worst examples of closed door, last minute favor giveaways to political allies that I’ve seen in my decade-long career under the dome.

The Governor’s office took an budget committee trailer bill and is using it to push a new law requiring In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) providers to attend an “in-person onsite orientation” given by members of the “recognized union in the each county” for “up to 30 minutes.”

So, new IHSS workers will be required to listen to a union sales pitch. Not shocking. 

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Uber, Lyft Compromise on Ridesharing Regulations

John Hrabe
Writer and Communications Strategist

Uber and Lyft, two of the country’s leading ride-sharing companies, reached a compromise with state lawmakers on Wednesday over new regulations of the industry that is changing how people get around town.

Assembly Bill 2293, which had been strongly opposed by the ridesharing companies, requires drivers to carry minimum levels of insurance and be covered, at times, by their parent company’s $1 million commercial-grade insurance policy. That $1 million insurance coverage level means ridesharing companies will be required — by law — to carry more insurance than is required of many taxis throughout California.

The amended bill passed the state Senate on a 30-4 vote and now heads to the Assembly for final approval.

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There They Go Again

Gary Toebben
President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

I wish I could say I was surprised. I wish I could say that this is a new frustration. In reality it is just the same old song we keep hearing from public employee unions. More than a year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature showed leadership by making some moderate changes to the State’s pension systems. It was not everything that taxpayers wanted or hoped for; but it was a significant step in the right direction to limit pension spiking and try to bring some common sense to a system that was ignoring economic realities and running away from financial responsibility.

Two week ago, the CalPERS Board ignored the action by the Governor and the legislature last year and again spiked pension benefits for public employees by approving 99 new types of extra pay that will count in pension calculations. Examples of the 99 new ways to bolster pensions included things like bonuses paid for marksmanship, longevity, physical fitness and obtaining a new license.

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The Looming Bipartisan Backlash Against Unionized Government

Ed Ring
Executive Director, California Public Policy Center

Whenever discussing politically viable policy proposals to improve the quality of life in California, the imperative is to come up with ideas that strongly appeal to moderate centrists, since that is how most Californians would describe themselves. And there are two compelling issues that offer that appeal: making California’s system of K-12 education the best in the world, and restoring financial sustainability to California’s state and local governments.

While these two objectives have broad conceptual appeal, there is a clear choice between two very different sets of policies that claim to accomplish them. The first choice, promoted by public sector unions, is to spend more money. And to do that, their solution is to raise taxes, especially on corporations and wealthy individuals. The problem with that option, of course, is that California already has the highest taxes and most inhospitable business climate in the U.S.

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Los Angeles Enhances its Anti-Business Reputation

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

On Tuesday the Los Angeles City Council voted 14 to 1 to pass a resolution supporting increased property taxes on business on a regular basis. Little surprise as the city continues to build an anti-business reputation. For years the city has held on to a gross receipts tax system for business that neighboring communities use as a talisman to lure business out of the city. The last three Los Angeles mayors have vowed to change the business tax system but nothing happens. Now the council wants to punish business more with a split property tax roll.

The city’s own sanctioned 2020 Commission identified Los Angeles as a “city in decline.” The Commission’s report, “A Time for Truth,” noted, “A city’s ability to maintain a competitive edge in today’s evolving global economy depends largely on how well it attracts – and retains – business, investment, and a talented workforce.”

Los Angeles has been pathetic in creating job growth.

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Labor Day 2014: 3 Truths and a Lie

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director & Milken Institute Fellow

As we come to Labor Day 2014, it is time to consider where we have come since last year’s Labor Day and where we might be going. Here are three truths and a lie about the job market in California.

laborday3Truth 1- California is in the midst of one of its longest employment expansions since 1960: The California economy has now gained nearly 1.4 million payroll jobs since February 2010, and at 53 months is in the midst of the fifth longest employment expansion since 1960. The longest expansion still is the 113 months from January 1960 to December 1969, followed by expansions of 91 months from 1982-1990 and 94 months from 1993-2001. We still have a way to go to reach these numbers, but while monthly numbers have varied, the trend of the past year has been steady gains.

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Opposition to AB 1897: Don’t Hold Business Liable for Employment Obligations of Others

Bill Dombrowski
President and CEO, California Retailers Association

Merriam-Webster defines accountability as, “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” This is a life lesson we’ve all learned at one point or another, and it’s an important virtue in society. Yet a member of the California Legislature is attempting to redefine accountability with Assembly Bill 1897, which is authored by Assemblymember Roger Hernández (D – West Covina), by proposing to hold innocent third-party businesses liable for the employment obligations of another employer. Essentially, AB 1897 attempts to shift accountability in a subcontractor relationship by unfairly holding the majority of California employers liable for the wage and hour violations of another that they could not control or prevent.

This bill is gross overreach that has real-world impacts on our Golden State job market. First, this bill threatens our state’s temporary workforce, which has a valid place in our state’s economy. California employers have numerous reasons for making use of temporary workers such as hiring for seasonal work, filling in for unpredictable work schedules, covering other employees on leaves of absences or vacations, accommodating flexible work schedules, or protecting primary employees to avoid layoffs or staff reductions.

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Groundwater Regulation Creates Water Police

Jim Nielsen
State Senator, Fourth Senate District, which includes the counties of Butte, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity and Yuba

Without much public involvement, the State Senate passed sweeping groundwater legislation Wednesday that will create a new government agency with extraordinary powers to impose fees and fines on property owners who rely on groundwater.

Tonight’s vote underscores the lack of trust the public has in the Legislature. This legislation will drastically change the way Californians deal with groundwater, and yet, the public has not been included in the deliberation.

This measure will increase regional water tensions. It pits the little guys against the big boys. It exempts the largest consuming counties like Los Angeles and their basins from the regulations.

Assembly Bill 1739 (Dickinson) and Senate Bill 1168 (Pavley), together would require landowners to register their wells and install meters on their pumps. Newly created and existing government agencies will be granted enforcement powers to inspect, with or without landowners’ consent, the property or pump to ensure compliance. If the State Water Resources Control Board deems that local agencies failed to comply and/or enforce restrictive regulations, then the State intervenes with its excessive powers to impose fees and fines. 

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