California Legislature Needs to Stop Punishing Business

David Kersten
David Kersten is an independent political consultant who lives in the Bay Area. Kersten is also an adjunct professor of public budgeting at the University of San Francisco.

A number of recent anecdotes suggest that the California Legislature, particularly the California Democrat Leadership, is out to punish the California business community for its legitimate policy differences.

For example, the California Democrat leadership abused the political process by holding back a number of tobacco regulation and tax bills from reaching the Governor’s desk to prevent industry from filing a referendum, its legal right.

Now it has recently come to light that the Senate Democratic leadership, under Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, passed a new bundle of regulatory bills and restrictions on civil liberties that “typifies the newfangled intolerance,” according to Dan Walters, the esteemed Sacramento Bee Columnist and dean of the Capitol Press Corps.    

Walters questions the motivations behind the bills, as well as their policy justification.  “The bills were rushed through the Senate for reasons that have nothing to do with gun violence, but rather three-sided political jousting,” Walters wrote.

The gun control bills are really intended to preempt gun control initiative by Gubernatorial hopeful Gavin Newsom which Democrats are worried about because it will mobilize gun owners and Republican voters to the polls in November.

Walters cites another bill by the Senate Judiciary Committee that would “give the attorney general new powers to go after corporations that don’t endorse climate change orthodoxy, in response to allegations that oil companies suppressed research,” Walters wrote.

“It would be a hunting license for a politically ambitious attorney general to harass political enemies,” Walters wrote, citing an even more egregious example of a federal judge recently saying that Attorney General Kamala Harris, a U.S. Senate Candidate, could not be trusted to protect a conservative foundation from intimidation for withholding, on a completely legal basis, a list of donors.

This is just a short list of some of the known recent efforts by the California Legislature, particularly those in the California Democrat majority, that go to great lengths to punish the business community and its supporters for having legitimate policy differences.

The California business community is indeed the “Golden Goose,” and as much as those who came from government and work in government would like to think that they produce things of the highest value.

Government could not exist without the private sector, and a healthy business community.  California businesses create all the economic growth that funds both government and the personal incomes, property and sales that are taxed to fund government.

It is all too easy for those who work in government to continuously, often times for all the wrong reasons, exact as much as possible from the business community–and then expect the economy and business climate to function and behave in exactly the same manner as it did prior to their exactions and regulations.

This is not how the economy works, and Sacramento politicians, particularly those on the Democratic side of the aisle, need to not forget the original source of all their power and prestige.

Total economic activity in the state is $2.4 trillion, and California government takes a big chunk of this money–$250 billion for state government or about 10% of the total state economic activity–and is supposed to spend this money, and the political power that this responsibility creates, in good faith.

But instead the California Legislature is trying to regulate and tax business a whole host of new and very costly ways.  And then when the California business community strongly opposes these policies–they are punished through the abuse of the political process and threatened with legislation that serves no public purpose other than to punish political detractors or serve as a sound byte for a political mailer or stump speech.

Many political observers are now increasingly seeing that a lot of legislation and political jousting in Sacramento actually either serves no legitimate public purpose or represents a gross abuse of both the political process and political power.

California’s business leaders are for the most part honest and hardworking individuals who are just trying to look out for their bottom line which keeps them and their employees employed.

The nastiness of politics and power hungry Sacramento politicians is a foreign concept to most of them.

California cannot legislate everything about the political process but it used to be that leaders on both sides of the aisle respected the political process to a high enough degree to not blatantly abuse their position to unfairly punish the minority or individuals with viewpoints they don’t believe in.

Many in Sacramento have come to believe that everything needs regulation and legislation.

Maybe the time has come to pass laws stating that state lawmakers cannot punish political dissidents for legitimate policy concerns or use their office to advance political gain unless there a genuine public benefit is served.

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