Driving Action On Climate Change: Transportation Matters

F. Noel Perry
Founder of Next 10, an independent, nonpartisan organization that educates, engages, and empowers Californians to improve the state’s future. Next 10 funds research by leading experts on complex state issues.

As lawmakers in Sacramento consider a flurry of climate change and clean energy measures in these last few weeks of the legislative session, it is worth remembering that the road to a clean-energy future runs through the largest contributor to California’s greenhouse gas emissions: the transportation sector.

Bay Area residents are already doing their part. They lead the nation in car-free commuting and electric vehicles per capita, and are considering ballot initiatives to fund road and transit improvements and cut the traffic congestion that exacerbates transportation-related carbon pollution.

Broadening out to a statewide perspective, a new analysis, “Achieving California’s Greenhouse Gas Goals: A Focus on Transportation,” finds that the Golden State’s landmark transportation policies are technologically feasible, cost-effective, and on track to help the state achieve emission reduction goals. But the road ahead is not free of obstacles or choices. 

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To Be Competitive, the California GOP Must Change Hearts and Minds

Carson Bruno
Research Fellow, The Hoover Institution

In 2014, the California Republican Party – for the first time since November 2006 – had a successful election night. Their Assembly candidates knocked off three sitting Democratic legislators (the first time since 1994 a Democratic incumbent lost re-election) and they picked up a San Francisco Bay-area district. In the Senate, Republicans picked up an elusive Orange County seat and fended off challenges in the Central Valley. Moreover, two statewide office candidates came within single-digits of winning.

Yet, the party still only holds 28 seats in the State Assembly and 14 in the State Senate and Republicans only account for 28% of total registered voters in California – only besting No Party Preference registration by 4 points. Maintaining those 2014 successes and building on them for long-term sustainability requires changing the hearts and minds of Californians, not just relying on record low turnout elections and motivating a shrinking base. To illustrate this, let’s examine a simple thought experiment. What districts would the California Republican Party need to win in order to have majorities in the State Legislature?

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On Caltrain’s ‘Downward Path’ With High-Speed Rail

Morris Brown
Resident of Menlo Park and Founder of DERAIL, a grassroots effort against the California high-speed rail project

A look at history reveals the downward path which Caltrain is now headed since its involvement with the California high-speed rail. (HSR).

The passing of the high-speed rail act bond issue (Proposition 1A) in November 2008 had the full support of Caltrain, perhaps with good reason. Looking back, HSR would be allowed use of Caltrain’s corridor. The arrangement then was there would be funding from HSR to have Caltrain’s corridor from the San Francisco Transbay Terminal (TBT) to San Jose fully electrified and fully grade-separated. There also would be funds to expand the corridor to a full four-track corridor, with HSR and Caltrain each having its own set of tracks.

Indeed this plan seemed a very desirable improvement for Caltrain’s operations. But my my, how this dream plan has now changed.

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Déjà Vu in the Special Session: Taxes vs. Reforms

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

Watching the maneuvering to pass a transportation revenue package in the special session, I can’t help but think of the observation by that great philosopher Yogi Berra who said: “It’s déjà vu all over again.” The legislative scrum over a legislative roads fix is similar to the struggle to find common ground before Proposition 30 was put on the ballot.

Remember those days at the beginning of Governor Jerry Brown’s third term. Brown tried to pick off a few Republican votes to secure the two-thirds margin he needed to put a tax increase measure on the ballot. In return, the Republicans who were courted by Brown sought reforms to the spending side of the budget, particularly, a spending limit and a rainy day fund. Pressured by public employee unions, Democrats in the legislature showed no interest in accepting these reforms.

The effort to achieve a compromise package went nowhere. The governor then turned to the ballot, working with union groups already pushing a tax increase initiative to create Proposition 30.

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Effort to Raise Smoking Age Hurts Minority Communities

Aubry Stone
President/CEO of the California Black Chamber of Commerce and Director of the California Black Chamber Foundation

Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, recently reintroduced legislation California Senate Bill 27 (SBX2-7) during the second extraordinary session that will again aim to raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21 and limit access to tobacco products. The first attempt at this bill failed to make it out of a key policy committee earlier in the year.

While seemingly well-intentioned, raising the smoking age is a severely misguided effort that may carry serious consequences for minority communities – particularly young adults in the African American community.

At 18 you can pay taxes, legally marry, and purchase and use tobacco products.  At 18, you can also serve our nation as a member of the armed forces.  Perhaps it is no surprise then, that military groups across the state object to raising the minimum smoking age and are opposing SBX2-7.

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Millionaire Monopoly Asks The Legislature For A Raise … Again

John R. McLaurin
President of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association

It’s nice to have a state-sanctioned monopoly. It’s even nicer to have a monopoly in an important, yet obscure profession, like the San Francisco Bay’s 60 bar pilots do. In 2014, the San Francisco Bar Pilots, who guide ships in and out of the Bay, collected their highest revenues ever in their 150+ year history, nearly $40 million, from the ships that called on the Bay Area’s seaports. After expenses, each pilot took home an annual income of $453,766 last year.   And that income is for an estimated six months of work per pilot – indeed, at the urging of a pilot, the US Tax Court recently determined that a pilot working in the San Francisco Bay works so few hours that the IRS can consider it a part-time – job..

Despite their 2014 record-high revenues, $450,000 annual salary, and a less-than-full-time workload, the San Francisco Bar Pilots apparently still feel that they are underpaid, as they are currently seeking an 11% pay increase (yielding an additional $12.4 million over four years) from the California Legislature.   As justification, they’re arguing that their expenses are increasing and they haven’t had a rate increase in 10 years. These are similar arguments to those used by the pilots when they asked the Legislature for a rate increase in 2011.

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Tax Increase Plans Force Business to Look Elsewhere

Joseph Vranich
The Irvine-based Principal of Spectrum Location Solutions helps companies plan and select ideal sites for new facilities across the U.S. and internationally.

California is considering imposing the most ruthless set of taxes ever placed on businesses in the state’s history – a tsunami of levies that may trigger the worst raid on private-sector finances ever organized by the state’s politicians.

One result will be an increasing number of businesses leaving California for greener domestic or international pastures.

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators will consider several proposals – including a new tax on previously untaxed services that will force companies to pay more for routine transactions, such as shipping a FedEx package, conducting bank transactions, hiring a contractor or relying on an independent auditor.

This “let’s tax everything in sight” measure will be on the backs of enterprises ranging from Fortune 500 corporations down to a one-person entrepreneurial company. Estimated annual cost to businesses: $10 billion.

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Top 10 Reasons Why Arnold Is Not Donald

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

I keep getting emails from friends with a link to a Washington Post piece arguing that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Donald Trump are, politically speaking, basically the same person.

And I keep scratching my head. Huh?

It’s hard to think of what they have in common. The theory of the Post story is that they were rich outsiders who upended politics. I guess, though Schwarzenegger’s outsiderism was always a bit squishy.

The Post story gets Arnold’s history wrong. The Post suggests Schwarzenegger and Trump both took on politicians who had waited their turn. That may be true with Trump, but Schwarzenegger didn’t face much political competition when he jumped into the recall. All the strongest possible candidates sat out the recall, because they didn’t want to give it legitimacy.

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Friday Shorts: California Citizenship; Drought and Wildlife; Lawsuit Settled

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

California Citizenship

Some people consider California a sovereign state. In fact, there has been a series of initiatives filed to recognize the state as such, requiring the California flag to be flown above the American flag among other changes. Perhaps, California is achieving the status of a sovereign state de facto rather than de jure – in fact rather than by law.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times a brand of California citizenship has been created for undocumented immigrants. Unlike other states, immigrants here are receiving a bushel of official benefits and rights such as driver’s licenses, in-state tuition privileges and state-funded health care for children.

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Small Business Owners Speak Out in New Video on Devastating Impact of Prop 65 Lawsuits

Dr. Joseph Perrone
Chief Science Officer for the Center for Accountability in Science

The Center for Accountability in Science released a new video interviewing small businesses about the effects of California’s chemical warning law, known as Proposition 65, on their operations. Rather than making Californians safer, Proposition 65 has become a tool for trial lawyers and their clients to extract large financial settlements from businesses.

The new video highlights the experiences of three small businessesa golf club cover manufacturer, instrument case manufacturer, and nutritional supplement manufacturerserved lawsuits under Proposition 65, and explains that while their products pose no reasonable risk of harm to consumers, these businesses were still forced to pay thousands in settlement costs for failing to adequately warn consumers.

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