California Split Roll Ballot Measure Destroys Prop 13 Protections for California Farmers, Threatens Rural Communities

By Katy Grimes at the California Globe

February 20, 2020

Agriculture was always considered sacred in the eyes of California’s property taxing agencies, and especially under Proposition 13. But that could change with the split roll property tax ballot initiative in November 2020.

Prop. 13 was a 1978 ballot initiative to cap property tax increases for residential and business properties and provide certainty, so property owners would not be taxed out of their homes and businesses.  Passed by 65% of California voters in 1978, Prop. 13 put a Constitutional cap on annual property tax increases. Prior to passage of Prop. 13, many seniors and those living on fixed incomes were forced from their homes because of skyrocketing property tax increases. According to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, author of Prop. 13, some properties were reassessed 50 – 100% in just one year.

The 2020 ballot initiative misleadingly called the “California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020,” known more commonly as the “split-roll” tax initiative, would reassess properties and hike taxes on all commercial and industrial properties, including manufacturing plants, retail stores and malls.

The split-roll property tax measure will also remove Prop 13’s protections for California farmers, triggering annual reassessments at market value for all agriculture-related facilities and improvements.

Read more at The California Globe

Our View | Sacramento Has Prop. 13 Repeal in the Crosshairs

By The Signal Editorial Board 

January 26, 2020

California’s Proposition 13 is one of the most important taxpayer protection initiatives ever enacted in our state. And the evidence, past and present, bears proof that we need the protection.

Now more than ever, a runaway Democratic supermajority in Sacramento is bringing a voracious appetite to the taxpayers’ table, gobbling up revenue at every turn, and in many cases breaking promises to taxpayers on how the money will be spent.

Take, for example, the voter-approved Senate Bill 1, the 12-cent gas tax that was supposed to fund $52 billion in road and highway improvements over 10 years.

Remember? The money was going in a roads and highways “trust fund,” or “lockbox,” or whatever device they could tell voters to assure them that the money would be spent as intended.

Many voters had buyer’s remorse over SB 1, and an initiative was placed on the 2018 ballot — Proposition 6 —to repeal it. But, Prop. 6 failed, thanks to a cleverly deceptive description attached to it by Democrat Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who dubbed it, “Eliminates Recently Enacted Road Repair and Transportation Funding by Repealing Revenues Dedicated for those Purposes.”

Read more at The Signal

Valley legislators hit with thousands of petitions to save Calif.’s Prop. 13

By Alex Tavlian

December 10, 2019

A push to maintain California’s landmark property tax law – Proposition 13 – got underway on Tuesday with a splash in the south Valley.

The Fight for Prop. 13, a campaign being waged by the California Business Roundtable and backed by a wide swath of local elected officials and organizations, hand-delivered thousands of petitions to southern San Joaquin Valley legislators.

Prop. 13, approved in 1978, capped property taxes at 1 percent of the cash value of an individual property with increases to property valuations limited to 2 percent annually.

It has often been the subject of ire from California Democrats looking to repeal it in one fashion or another to boost tax revenues.

Currently, a proposal to enact a split-roll property tax, whereby the caps on business property taxes would be repealed, is targeted for the November 2020 ballot.

Read more at the The Sun.

Feds clear farmer to plow, then slap him with millions in fines

By Paige Gilliard

November 27, 2019

Following government rules is often a tough enough task. But when federal agencies secretly move their own rules’ goalposts and then threaten millions of dollars in fines for noncompliance, it can be devastating.

Ask Jack LaPant. In 2011, the rural farmer in Tehama County, Calif., planted 900 acres of winter wheat on his property. Before he ever put a plow to the soil in his field, he sought the official views of both the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Both agencies assured him that since growing wheat would be consistent with past use of the land, he could legally proceed as planned.

With approval from those two federal agencies, LaPant thought he was in the clear and set about planting his wheat. More than a year later, however, he was shocked when a third federal agency came knocking on his door. LaPant had never considered consulting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, not with the go-ahead from two other farm-governing bodies. The Army Corps, nonetheless, informed him that under the Clean Water Act (CWA), he needed a permit to farm his property.

Read more at The Hill.

‘It’s very disruptive.’ Parents, schools frustrated by PG&E outage that didn’t happen


November 20, 2019

Thousands of parents across Northern California rearranged their lives early Wednesday morning in anticipation of yet another round of canceled classes because of a massive intentional PG&E power outage.

They scrambled to find child care. They stayed home from work to care for their children.

Yet the lights stayed on in most of the north state, as PG&E significantly dialed back power outages Wednesday.

In anticipation of gusty winds and dry conditions that could spark another devastating fire, PG&E announced earlier this week it was planning its the fourth major power shut down since October. The utility originally estimated more than 300,000 customers would be without power, before deciding on a final projection of about 150,000 customers across 18 Northern California counties.

Read more at the Sacramento Bee.

PG&E wants to seize private vineyard property for liquid natural gas plant in Calistoga

CALISTOGA — PG&E is taking Calistoga vineyard owner Terry Gard to court, to seize a portion of his land for a liquid natural gas plant.

Since the beginning of the year, the utility has tried to reach an agreement with Gard, who steadfastly refuses to cede any of the property his family has farmed for generations.

PG&E has now claimed eminent domain to forcibly secure a permanent easement of 1.4 acres on the corner of Highway 29 and Dunaweal Lane, across from Twomey Cellars.

According to PG&E, the property is needed for a project that will upgrade the current Upvalley pipeline to meet the region’s growing demand for natural gas, and to meet state and federal requirements.

Read more at the Napa Valley Register.

Apple will donate $2.5 billion to fight ‘unsustainable’ California housing crisis

Apple has pledged $2.5 billion in donations to help combat California’s current crisis of rising home costs, CEO Tim Cook announced Monday.

The tech giant’s contributions have been earmarked to help jumpstart home building, assist first-time home buyers and reduce homelessness in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.

“Affordable housing means stability and dignity, opportunity and pride. When these things fall out of reach for too many, we know the course we are on is unsustainable, and Apple is committed to being part of the solution,” Cook said in the announcement.

Apple’s move follows earlier action by Google, which in June pledged to invest $1 billion in building affordable housing, and Facebook’s October commitment of $1 billion toward fighting the housing crisis.

Read more at USA Today

Do California power shutoffs work? Hard to know, experts say

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Millions of Californians spent part of the week in the dark in an unprecedented effort by the state’s large electrical utilities to prevent another devastating wildfire. It was the fifth time Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has preemptively cut the power but by far the largest to date in the utility’s effort to prevent a deadly wildfire sparked by its power lines.

But do the power shut-offs actually prevent fires?

Experts say it’s hard to know what might have happened had the power stayed on, or if the utility’s proactive shutoffs are to thank for California’s mild fire season this year.

“It’s like trying to prove a negative,” said Alan Scheller-Wolf, professor of operations management and an energy expert at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. “They can’t prove they prevented a disaster because there’s no alternative universe where they didn’t try this.”

The winds that prompted the mass outage that affected about 2 million people in northern and central parts of the state shifted southward by Thursday, where a wind-driven wildfire led officials to order the evacuation of 100,000 people from their homes in foothills of the San Fernando Valley.

Read more at the Associated Press.

PG&E CEO Apologizes To Customers: ‘We Were Not Adequately Prepared’

PG&E CEO Bill Johnson admitted during a Thursday evening press conference that the utility thoroughly botched its Public Safety Power Shutoff, apologizing to customers.

The press conference at the utility’s San Francisco headquarters marked the first time the company’s head had publicly addressed the shutdown.

“We faced a choice between hardship on everyone or safety and we chose safety,” said Johnson. “And I do apologize for the hardship this has caused, but I think we made the right call on safety.”

Johnson also apologized for all the technical problems with the PG&E website and promised to get them right next time.

“Our website crashed several times. Our maps are inconsistent and maybe incorrect. Our call centers were overloaded,” said Johnson. “To put it simply, we were not adequately prepared to support the operational event.”

Read more at CBS SF BayArea


The new face of Sacramento’s affordable housing crisis: College students forced to drop out

After classes at Sacramento State, when others had gone home, Alvin Prasad would spend the night sleeping in his Honda. He couldn’t afford an apartment and was too tired to drive to his parents’ Modesto home. “In winter, you have a blanket, sometimes it’s not warm enough.”

Criminal justice major Jayda Preyer chose Sacramento for college because rents here were lower than San Francisco. Then the rents here soared. Without family help, she’s in 30-day emergency housing on campus, not knowing what happens next. “I believe in God. I’ll be OK. But it’s very nerve-wracking.”

Alexandra Lopez is more fortunate. She has an apartment and job, but a recent pay increase disqualified her for a CalFresh food subsidy. She’s among many California students who queue for free food at their campus pantry. “I had to use the money I made to keep a roof over my head. This is hard to experience.”

Read more at The Sacramento Bee.