A Mercury News headline earlier this year declared that “Amid ‘Resistance,’ activists try to push California Democratic Party to the left.” But looking back now that the bill signing period is complete, it’s clear that Sacramento Democrats don’t need to be pushed left. They’re headed that way just fine on their own.
“From all appearances,” long-time California political observer Dan Walters wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, the 2017 Legislature that was completed in September was one of the most “progressive” in state history.
While Democrats didn’t get every one of their progressive ideas – which are more accurately described as “regressive” – legislated into law, enough were passed and signed, to indicate that the Sacramento majority won’t be satisfied until California state government dictates all aspects of our lives.
Senate Bill 17. It doesn’t set prices for prescription drugs but does require pharmaceutical companies provide a 60-day notice when drug prices are increased more than 16 percent over a two-year period.
“We’ve got to point to the evils, and there’s a real evil when so many people are suffering so much from rising drug profits,” Gov. Jerry Brown said when he signed SB 17 on Oct. 9.
There’s so much wrong here that it would take a scholarly research paper to fully unwind the madness. So let’s just hit a few high points.
First, a privately-owned company should never have to explain its lawful activities to government authorities outside of a legitimate criminal investigation. The requirement of SB 17 goes beyond meddling and enters the dark realm of autocracy.
Second, this demand “would not only be costly, it is also unworkable because the price of medicines vary for many reasons, such as the differences in formulations, package sizes, doses, etc.,” says Pacific Research Institute fellow Wayne Winegarden wrote last month in Forbes. “Due to these complexities, much of the data collected under SB 17 would be difficult to interpret at best.”
Assembly Bill 199. This law mandates that private residential building projects being built on private property pay the prevailing wage if the project receives any public funding and is under an agreement with a government agency. It’s a heavy-handed demand that will not help ease the state’s housing crisis. It will likely make it worse since it will increase construction costs.
Assembly Bill 1066. It “amends the definition of ‘public works’ for purposes of state prevailing wage law to include tree removal,” according to legal site JD Supra. Prevailing wage for tree removal? Is there no corner of California that lawmakers think is beyond their administrative grasp?
Senate Bill 562. Single-payer health care failed in the Assembly, but it was passed by the Senate, and will be back. Which means big problems will follow. As Pacific Research Institute President and CEO Sally Pipes has said, it’s a “a government takeover of health care” that “would cripple the state’s economy and ruin its health care system.”
It’s also a gross overreach. A poll earlier this year found that 66 percent of Californians are against single payer. Of those who do favor it, 75 percent are less likely to support it when they know the cost to Californians in new taxes. Why does Sacramento think forcing those 22 million Californians into a program they don’t want to be a part of is justifiable?
Senate Bill 32. This legislation extends the state’s cap-and-trade program by 10 years. In a lawsuit filed against the initial program, the Pacific Legal Foundation asserted — correctly — that companies can either “bid significant amounts of money for the privilege of continuing to emit carbon dioxide” or they will “be faced with closing their doors in California, laying off their employees, and moving their businesses to other states.” Unfortunately, they lost in court, though the case is on appeal. Government should not authorize itself to extort private enterprises, especially when the agenda it’s chasing has no benefit.
Assembly Bill 1209. Here’s a mandate that forces businesses with 500 or more employees to “collect specified information on gender wage differentials,” according to the Legislative Counsel and “submit the information to the secretary of state.”
Chris Micheli, an attorney at Aprea & Micheli, says the law “is intended to publicly shame companies based upon a mistaken belief that such action is necessary to ensure compliance with the law.”
Is it government’s job to shame private citizens and businesses? When did that become a public duty? Apparently Sacramento has come to believe that it has to be in an adversarial role with the marketplace. Because it has become increasingly hostile toward business.
Ironically, it is the very people that lawmakers claimed to be fighting for in 2017 who will ultimately be this year’s biggest losers, saddled with higher costs, lower wages, and fewer job opportunities.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.