Monday, May 12, 2014

Bill's Bills May 2014

By William Saracino
[Published in the May newsletter of the Southern California Rebublican Women and Men]
Ah yes, it’s springtime and a young man’s fancy turns to…well…it’s baseball in the old saying, but if the young man – or woman – is a Democrat legislator in California their fancy turns to running our once golden state further into the ground. The imagination of liberals in Sacramento on ways to destroy our state is amazing. Here for your dining and dancing pleasure are a few recent examples.
SB 1021 by Wolk of Davis. The “split roll” concept – allowing local governments to tax “business property” at a higher rate than residential. Definitions are loose of what is and isn’t business or residential, and the bill allows double tax increases by permitting both a parcel tax based upon use as well as a parcel tax based upon square footage, thereby allowing a district to impose layers of taxes. Should be titled the “run even more business out of California” act.
AB 2416 by Stone of Scotts Valley. This bill would cripple California businesses by allowing any employee, governmental agency, or anyone “authorized by the employee to act on the employee’s behalf” to record super priority liens on an employer’s real property or any property where an employee “performed work” for an alleged, yet unproven, wage claim.This bill would severely disrupt commercial and personal real estate markets in this state as AB 2416 would allow a wage lien to take precedence over almost all other liens or judgments.
SB 1381 by Evans of Santa Rosa forces farmers and food companies to implement costly new labeling, packaging, distribution and recordkeeping for genetically engineered food products sold in California, adding significantly to the cost of food for Californians. The bill also includes a private right of action, (also known as the “bounty hunter provision”) which further raises the specter of liability issues, adding to the cost of compliance for farmers, grocers and food manufacturers.
The bounty hunter lawsuit provision in SB 1381 will allow trial lawyers to file predatory lawsuits against family farmers, small grocery stores, food producers and practically everyone associated with the food distribution chain. This provision closely mirrors Proposition 65, which spawned numerous lawsuits that resulted mostly in settlements benefiting litigators. There is no reason to think that the same thing won’t happen again under SB 1381. Bounty hunter provisions cost the business community millions of dollars defending baseless suits when those resources would be better spent on research and development, expansions and employee compensation or benefits.
Whatever your view of GMO, California citizens already decided this issue when they voted to reject Proposition 37 in 2012. That proposition was very similar in content and intent to SB 1381.
And getting away from the bill mill for a moment, you may have noticed a lot of happy talk recently about California’s fiscal situation. The smiles were brought on by a “balanced budget”. Unmentioned is that the budget is “balanced” by borrowing $500 million from a “cap and trade” carbon reduction special fund. Sort of like “balancing” your VISA card debt by paying it with your Mastercard.
Take a look behind the happy talk and you'll see a $330 billion skyline of other liabilities threatening the state's financial health. It includes $80 billion needed to cover teachers' pensions and $64 billion to pay for state workers' health care in retirement -- two particularly troublesome liabilities because the state isn't even making the minimum payments
As a result -- similar to the debt of a homeowner who fails to make regular mortgage payments -- California's liabilities keep growing. For example, the money needed to fully fund the California State Teachers' Retirement System balloons by $22 million a day, or about $8 billion a year, financial analysts estimate.
According to the non—patisan Legislative Analysts Office, the state should first address the $80 billion shortfall in the teachers' retirement system, a debt that could cost the state, teachers and school districts a combined $5 billion a year to resolve over 30 years. Without changes, the system serving 868,000 members is projected to run out of money by 2046.
Paying down the $64.6 billion shortfall in health benefits for 277,000 retired state employees and their dependents should come next. That could cost the state $1.8 billion a year over 30 years, the analyst said, but getting started sooner would dramatically reduce costs over the long run.
Pardon me boy, is that the Jerry Brown Choo Choo? According to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the estimated cost of building the 114-mile “bullet-train” route linking Fresno and Bakersfield has gone up $940 million — from $6.19 billion to $7.13 billion. That’s worrisome enough. But what makes it worse is that state officials allegedly didn’t want this 15 percent increase to be made public. I know that shocks you as much as it did me…ahem.
URS Corp. — the San Francisco engineering firm hired to determine the updated cost — reportedly complained in March that it had been “instructed” by the authority to have its numbers be in line with what was projected in the bullet train’s 2012 business plan. URS refused in a carefully worded message that clearly implied the authority wanted it to violate state ethical guidelines for licensed professionals.
Authority officials deny wrongdoing. But after years of deceptive projections and misleading rhetoric, it’s easy to believe they would pressure a consultant to avoid an embarrassing headline.
Are you angry enough now? Well don’t just sit there and stew – come to the next SCRWM meeting and find out how to elect more Republicans to the legislature and end this nonsense. See you there!