By John Myers
June 7, 2021
The events of the last few days raise the question: In eight days, will Californians mistakenly believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is over? After all, Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised a “full reopening” of the state on that date.
In reality, the changes taking place on June 15 are only the beginning of California’s journey back to normality. But the facts have been blurred by imprecise messages, some delivered by Newsom, repeated on social and news media platforms for weeks.
The simmering issue boiled over late last week, leaving the governor’s administration scrambling to explain why the “reopening” will not bring an end to the state’s emergency declaration.
Read more at the LA Times
By Leslie Kaufman and Eugene Reznik
June 3, 2021
There is dry, and then there is desiccated.
As any movie fan knows from the classic film Chinatown, California is an infamously thirsty place. But this year, even by its own standards, the state is shockingly, scarily parched. So far in 2021, the state has received half of its expected precipitation; that makes it the third driest year on record according to California’s Department of Water Resources.
This past week, as temperatures from Sacramento up to the Oregon border topped 100º Fahrenheit, the intense heat evaporated the remaining water at an astonishing pace, creating scenes more reminiscent of Hollywood-manufactured dystopias like Mad Max than the lush paradise Americans are used to envisioning on their West Coast.
At Folsom Lake, the enormous reservoir that supplies both drinking and irrigation water in the middle of the state, surface levels suddenly dropped to 68 feet below what they were at this time last year. By last week, boat slips that once floated were sitting on a dry lake bed with grass sprouting around them.
Folsom is hardly alone in its extremity. The long-lasting lack of precipitation is taxing reservoirs state-wide. On April 21, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency in two northern counties, Mendocino and Sonoma, where water levels had reached record lows. On May 10, Newsom extended the emergency declaration to encompass 41 of the state’s counties, which are home to roughly 30% of the state’s population.
And still the water supply shrinks. Nicasio Reservoir outside of San Francisco has been reduced to a cracked dried mud flat, while green algae grows at the edges of the San Luis Reservoir, just south of San Jose.
Read more at Bloomberg
By Hannah Wiley at the Sacramento Bee
November 6, 2020
California’s state Capitol is home to some of the most liberal lawmakers in America.
This year alone, the Legislature passed laws that require California’s public corporations to appoint more minority or LGBTQ directors to their boards, expand the state’s paid family leave law and initiate a reparations process for Black Californians who are descendants of slaves.
But Election Day issued a reality check to the Democratic supermajority in the Capitol, where Republicans are outnumbered four to one.
Through four ballot initiatives, voters rejected policies on labor, criminal justice and voting that lawmakers passed in recent years, demonstrating a sharp ideological divide between progressives in Sacramento and the general California electorate.
With their votes, said GOP strategist Rob Stutzman, Californians sent a clear message to their representatives in the Capitol: “Don’t get too progressive. Focus on what matters to people.”
Read more at the Sacramento Bee
By John Myers at the LA Times
September 11, 2020
SACRAMENTO — Wading into a contentious battle over the legacy of California’s landmark property tax law, Proposition 13, Gov. Gavin Newsom endorsed on Friday a November ballot measure that would make commercial property owners subject to billions of dollars in additional taxes each year.
Newsom announced his support for Proposition 15 in an email to supporters, calling the proposal “a fair, phased-in and long-overdue reform to state tax policy.”
“It’s consistent with California’s progressive fiscal values, it will exempt small businesses and residential property owners, it will fund essential services such as public schools and public safety, and, most importantly, it will be decided by a vote of the people,” the governor said in a written statement released by his political advisors.
If approved by voters in November, Proposition 15 would result in separate tax rules for commercial and residential property. Since the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, the value of all property has been based on what it sold for when last purchased. That initiative capped property tax rates at 1% of the assessed value with annual increases of no more than 2%. Californians who hold on to their property for long periods of time end up paying significantly less in taxes than those who have bought similar property more recently.
Read more at the LA Times
By Mike Roos at the OC Register
August 16, 2020
Southern California is confronting the worst economic crisis in modern times. Across our community, the outlook looks uncertain for millions of families and countless small businesses. Amid conditions not seen since the Great Depression, voters will decide this November the fate of Proposition 15—the largest proposed property tax increase in state history.
Unless rejected by voters, Prop. 15 and the $11.5 billion tax hike it imposes will prove to be another impediment for unemployed workers counting on an economic rebound in the not-too-distant future. Prop. 15 will add another significant burden to small businesses who already face an existential crisis.
Worse still, the tax increase’s cost will be passed along to consumers, as we’ll be forced to pay more for basic necessities like groceries, gasoline, diapers and clothing.
Southern California’s future – and with it the state’s recovery – relies on a strong economy that creates jobs for workers and allows small businesses to confidently re-open and engage in commerce. Prop 15’s massive tax increases would significantly undermine these goals.
Read more at the OC Register
By Cyrus Farivar at NBC News
August 19, 2020
OAKLAND, Calif. — Uber and Lyft say that unless a state appeals court decides to intervene Thursday, they will shut down their passenger services across California for at least several months if not more than a year.
The companies say it is practically impossible for them to comply with a San Francisco judge’s order last week that said they had violated a new state law known as AB5 and had misclassified hundreds of thousands of their drivers as contractors rather than employees.
San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman found an “overwhelming likelihood” that Uber and Lyft had misclassified their drivers. He issued a preliminary injunction ordering the companies to halt the practice, which saves the companies millions of dollars a year because they do not have to pay into benefits programs, including unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation.
Read more at NBC News
By The Editorial Board at The OC Register
June 11, 2020
The California Assessors’ Association has come out in opposition to a recently qualified November ballot initiative that would change Proposition 13 to require the reassessment of many commercial and industrial properties to current market value.
In a letter to state lawmakers, CAA President Don Gaekle, assessor for Stanislaus County, cited the “immense anticipated statewide implementation costs and complexities, as well as the disparate impacts to the various California counties as the reasons the assessors felt “compelled” to oppose the measure that proponents have named The California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020.
Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone told lawmakers during an informational hearing on June 4 that the California Assessors’ Association completed a comprehensive analysis of the so-called “split roll” initiative with the goal of answering one question: Can assessors implement the initiative?
“Our conclusion is we cannot,” he testified, “It would be impossible — not difficult, but impossible — to administer all of the provisions of the measure as it is written.”
Read more at the OC Register
The California utility agreed to pay a nearly $2 billion fine for causing the blaze, which killed dozens and destroyed the town of Paradise.
By Ivan Penn and Peter Eavis
June 16, 2020
Marie Wehe, a grandmother, widow and cancer survivor, died in her truck on Nov. 8, 2018, while trying to escape the Camp Fire, an inferno that started when a transmission line broke from a nearly-100-year-old Pacific Gas & Electric tower. She was one of scores killed in California’s most devastating wildfire.
In a rare acknowledgment of corporate wrongdoing, PG&E on Tuesday pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for its negligence, ending a two-year ordeal for the families of victims like Ms. Wehe and survivors of the fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise.
PG&E, which had repeatedly failed to maintain the line even though it cut through a forested and mountainous area known to experience strong winds, also pleaded guilty to one count of illegally setting a fire.
The Camp Fire devastated lives and billions of dollars in property, but it also left PG&E struggling to survive while it fends off creditors in bankruptcy court, a public furious about the company’s history of accidents and power outages and a governor who at one point threatened a state takeover. The company, California’s biggest utility, is expected to receive a judge’s approval soon for its plan to exit bankruptcy. Under that plan, the company will pay $13.5 billion to people who lost homes and businesses from wildfires started by its equipment, including the Camp Fire.
Read more at the New York Times
By Katy Grimes at the California Globe
April 1, 2020
“If AB 5 is not immediately suspended then the consequences of the coronavirus collapse will be magnified,” former Congressman Doug Ose said in a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently. “Your action now to suspend AB5 will provide relief to over one million Californians.”
Since Assembly Bill 5 became law January 1, 2020, millions of freelance and independent contractors’ jobs have been killed. And at a time when California needs all hands on deck during the coronavirus crisis, AB 5 is preventing desperately needed health care and medical professionals who are independent contractors, from working.
Assembly Bill 5 by former labor leader Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), has significantly limited Californians’ ability to work as independent contractors and freelancers. AB 5 also randomly limits freelance writers and photographers to 35 submissions annually per media outlet, and has served to quash the independent contracting jobs of important health care and medical professionals’ during the coronavirus crisis in California.
Millions of Californians who are independent contractors, gig economy workers, and freelancers, have been calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to use his Emergency Powers to suspend Assembly Bill 5’s restrictions on independent contracting during the COVID-19 crisis.
Read more at the California Globe.
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