CEQA Reform Needed To Meet Environmental Goals

John R. McLaurin
President of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association

California’s political leadership is setting up 2015 to be the year for taking the already aggressive state climate goals and imposing new, far reaching requirements.   However, if California intends to meet these climate goals and impose new requirements, then a corresponding change in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) must be made to achieve these objectives.

CEQA was originally intended to provide public disclosure on proposed project impacts and mitigate those impacts.  The key feature of CEQA is to provide opportunities for public input to further reduce project impacts and enhance mitigation.  Unfortunately, CEQA is now being used for a variety of purposes, some completely unrelated to environmental mitigation.  The greatest irony is that many of the projects that have been held up or killed altogether have ended up delaying improvements that have environmental benefits.

Read comments Read more

“Yoga Happy” – Tax Talk at the Budget Press Conference

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

Reading Governor Jerry Brown’s meaning on some issues, with or without a dictionary and history text, can be tricky. But it was worth looking for signals on tax issues at the governor’s Friday press conference introducing the record $113 billion general fund budget.

When Brown was asked about extending the Proposition 30 tax increases or making it permanent, he noticeably paused before answering, “I said that’s a temporary tax and that’s my position.”

It may be risky to see meaning in the pause but it suggested he was responding carefully. That prompts some parsing of the short answer. If the Prop 30 tax were extended a specific length of time, in the governor’s mind would it still be considered a “temporary” tax with a new end date as opposed to making the tax permanent? Therefore, cloaked in the governor’s answer is there now some wiggle room for discussing a tax extension?

Read comments Read more

Brown Will Be Governor Until 2030, Whether He Lives That Long Or Not

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)

At Tuesday’s high-speed rail groundbreaking in Fresno, Gov. Jerry Brown talked about the year 2030, the target date for getting actual trains in service.

“I’ll be 92 in 2030, so I’m working out, I’m pumping iron, I’m eating vegetables. I want to be around for the 50 percent reduction in petroleum [consumption], the six or 7 million electric cars” that he hopes will be on the road by then.

This is supposedly the beginning of Brown’s last term as governor. But his governorship won’t end in 2018. He’s been busy trying to extend his power to the end of the next decade, and he’s already had quite a bit of success.

Prop 2 effectively locks the Brown budget and debt plans into the state constitution for 15 years. And in his inaugural/State of the State speech, Brown outlined a series of aggressive goals on energy and the environment – all of them with a 15-year target. And of course, his water plans have a similar time horizon.

Read comments Read more

Build a State Budget for Skills and High-Wage Job Growth

Dorothy Rothrock
President, California Manufacturers & Technology Association

We commend Gov. Jerry Brown for proposing a balanced budget with a sensible reserve for California. However, he noted that the budget is precariously balanced.  He also mentioned that while we grew 1.3 million new jobs since the recession, our declining wage levels are still a concern in California.

Like the Governor, we believe the best way to address both problems is to grow tax revenues with an expanding economy. High wage jobs in manufacturing should be a high priority for the state.

We are encouraged that this budget does not propose higher taxes, but increased energy costs for manufacturers due to ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals could have the same damaging effect on economic growth. The vibrancy of our economy is critical to reaching our environmental goals, however our already highest-in-the-nation electricity rates hamper our ability to attract new manufacturing investment.

Read comments Read more

Senator Boxer Calls It Quits

Richard Rubin
He writes about political issues and is President of a Public Affairs Management Firm. He also teaches courses on the Presidential & Congressional Elections at the University of San Francisco and is Vice Chair of the California Commonwealth Club.

U.S. Senator, Barbara Boxer’s announcement that she will throw in the towel in 2016 rather than seek a 5th term comes as little surprise. Her failure to begin raising campaign funds was a sure sign that she had decided to call it quits. Although 74, she rules out age as a factor.

The diminutive Boxer’s meteoric rise from obscure Marin/Sonoma County Supervisor to the House for five terms and then on to the U.S. Senate in 1992, the so-called “Year of the Woman” when three others, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein  (who is 81) were also elected, is one of the great success stories in California politics.

As an unapologetic liberal who seemed to relish combat with many of her much more conservative seat mates, from the very beginning Boxer has always marched to her own drummer.

Read comments Read more

Brown Plan to Eliminate Retiree Health Care Debt

Publisher, CalPensions.com

Gov. Brown wants state workers to begin paying half the cost of their future retiree health care — a big change for workers making no payments for coverage that can pay 100 percent of the premium for a retiree and 90 percent for their dependents.

The governor also wants state workers to be given the option of a lower-cost health insurance plan with higher deductibles. The state would contribute to a tax-deferred savings account to help cover out-of-pocket costs not covered by the plan.

More funding and lower premium costs are key parts of a plan to eliminate a growing debt or “unfunded liability” for state worker retiree health care, now estimated to be $72 billion over the next 30 years.

Read comments Read more

Debt, Rainy Day Fund, Education Funding Should Be State’s Budget Priorities

Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez
Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chair Melissa Melendez, District 67

Today, Governor Brown will release his budget proposal for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The release of the Governor’s budget officially kicks off the budget debate at the State Capitol. As the new vice chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I look forward to representing Assembly Republicans throughout the budget process as we work toward a balanced budget that protects taxpayers.

Our budget priorities this year are your priorities — protecting classroom dollars, keeping higher education affordable, and safeguarding public safety funding.

There will be areas where we agree with the Governor on his budget proposal, and areas where we disagree.

We agree with his focus on tackling the state’s long-term liabilities. This is especially important as the State Controller’s office has estimated that state retiree healthcare obligations have grown to nearly $72 billion this year – a $7 billion increase over last year.

Read comments Read more

Plenty of Dem & Rep Names for Boxer Seat; What About an Independent?

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

The floodgates of conjecture opened wide with the announcement by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer that she would not seek re-election in 2016. Potential senatorial candidates from the Democratic and Republican Parties made it into news reports.

But with California now working under the top two primary system an independent candidate could also challenge to get one of the top two positions in a primary race.

Is it possible for a registered independent candidate to succeed?

“No question about it,” said Dan Schnur, Executive Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. Schnur ran a well-chronicled campaign as an independent for Secretary of State in the June election finishing fourth. He said the greatest obstacles for an independent candidate are voting habits of the electorate and familiarity with the candidate.

Schnur believes an independent candidate with name recognition, great resources, and significant news coverage of a high profile race, such as the U.S. Senate, could succeed.

Read comments Read more

The U.S. Supreme Court is One Decision Away from Curtailing Union Power in California

Larry Sand
President of the California Teachers Empowerment Network

Last year marked a legal turning point for California’s teachers’ unions and public employee unions across the nation. First, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled in June that some of the teachers’ work rules—including tenure, seniority, and dismissal laws—violated the state and federal constitutions. That same month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Harris v. Quinn, holding that home healthcare workers could not be forced to pay agency shop fees to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Treu’s ruling in Vergara v. California inflicted a flesh wound on the teachers’ unions, but Harris sent them reeling. The only way that the Supreme Court’s five-to-four decision could have been worse for the unions is if the justices had decided to broaden it to cover all public employees, not just a subset of them. Instead, Justice Samuel Alito drew a distinction between the home workers and “full-fledged” public employees, who currently must pay dues as delineated in the court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision. Nevertheless, Alito’s opinion left the door open for a more expansive court ruling later. He noted that Abood (which holds that the state may force public-sector workers to pay union dues while carving out an exception for the funds that unions spend on political activity) is questionable on several grounds, and went so far as to suggest that collective bargaining issues are inherently political in the public sector. Alito explained, “In the private sector, the line is easier to see. Collective bargaining concerns the union’s dealings with the employer; political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government. But in the public sector, both collective bargaining and political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government.” Taking Alito’s reasoning to its logical next step, paying fees to a public-employee union would become voluntary in the 26 states, including California, where it’s now compulsory.

Read comments Read more

Why is LA’s City Council Ignoring the Recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission?

Jack Humphreville
LA Watchdog writer for CityWatch, President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and Publisher of the Recycler

Nine months ago, on April 9, 2014, all twelve members of the LA 2020 Commission endorsed a series of actionable recommendations designed to “enhance transparency and accountability in City Hall, put the City on a path of fiscal stability, and renew job creation in Los Angeles.”

These measures were also viewed as an excellent starting point by Maria Elena Durazo, the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and Gary Toebben, the President of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Yet, despite this widespread support from organized labor, the business community, and the political establishment, why has City Council President Herb Wesson failed to even consider these common sense recommendations? 

Read comments Read more

Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.