MOORLACH UPDATE — Propositions 47 and 57 — December 8, 2016

The Proposition 47/57 Conference went very well this morning. The two panels were extremely informative and thought provoking. The Sacramento Bee mentioned it in their AM Alert and it is the first piece below (with a cute typo). Thank you to all who were able to attend. We hope to have the video up on the Senate website next month.

The Associated Press called me to discuss another new bill that was introduced on the topic of immigration. It was printed in a number of newspapers, including the OC Register, and is the second piece below. I used my observation from yesterday’s UPDATE (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Thirteen! — December 6, 2016 december 6, 2016 john moorlach).

Union Watch provides our announcement about "There Ought NOT Be A Law" in the third piece below. It has also appeared in California Political Review. And
CalWatch does the same in the fourth piece below.

BONUS: I will be on the Studio SoCal show tomorrow evening on PBS SoCal. Please set your DVR. Here are the details:

  • Fri, Dec 9 @ 7:00 PM | Employee’s Rights Vs. Taxpayers
  • Mon, Dec 12 @ 5:30 PM | Employee’s Rights Vs. Taxpayers
  • Wed, Dec 14 @ 5:30 PM | Employee’s Rights Vs. Taxpayers

AM Alert: Are criminal justice changes making California safer?



It has been a momentous decade for California crime-and-punishment.

Once defined by tough sentencing laws and other strict policies that stuffed prisons to the point the feds intervened, the state has been moving steadily in the opposite direction. Many of those changes have emanated from the voters.

They eased third-strike penalties in 2012 by passing Proposition 36, and the number of inmates incarcerated for a third offense has plummeted. In 2014, they agreed to downgrade drug possession and lower-level crimes like theft from felonies to misdemeanors in authorizing Proposition 47. This year, they chose to legalize recreational marijuana via Proposition 64 and to clear the way for more offenders to win parole through Proposition 57, vindicating Gov. Jerry Brown and his quest to back off the kind of rigid sentencing he once supported.

So, has it worked? There’s been mixed evidence so far about the effects of Proposition 47 on public safety and state spending, and law enforcement critics have warned of curtailed DNA collection and difficulty in changing the behavior of repeat offenders. It’s too early to know about Proposition 57, which like Proposition 47 was assailed by prosecutors and some victim’s advocates.

Policy experts and lawmakers will gather today to discuss what we’ve learned so far. Expected participants include Senators Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, and John Moorlach, D-Costa Mesa, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Scott Kernan, various Orange County law enforcement officials and representatives of the Legislative Analyst’s Office and the Public Policy Institute of California. From 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the University of California, Irvine.


State bill aims to ban police from notifying feds about immigrants


SACRAMENTO – The leader of the California Senate wants to bar police from sharing information with federal deportation agents about immigrants being released from custody to protect them from President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to boost deportations.

The bill introduced by Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon would prevent law enforcement from heeding requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be notified when immigrants are being released from local jails. It would also ban federal agents from interviewing inmates for deportation purposes and prohibit immigration enforcement in public schools, hospitals and courthouses.

“I cannot wait and allow federal ICE agents to use state and local dollars, data, personnel, and facilities to help deport the very families who contribute so much to our economy and community,” de Leon said in a statement on Wednesday.

Since Trump’s election, Democratic lawmakers have proposed a series of bills aimed at protecting California’s more than 10 million foreign-born residents.

De Leon’s bill goes to the heart of ICE’s latest effort to get local police to help them take immigrants into custody from jails for deportation.

Immigration agents last year began asking police to notify them when immigrant inmates were slated for release so they could pick them up. The move came after many jurisdictions – including California – started refusing to honor agents’ requests to detain inmates for deportation.

It also came amid an uproar following last year’s shooting death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco allegedly by a man who had been repeatedly deported and was released by local law enforcement even though immigration agents wanted him for deportation.

California law bans police from detaining immigrants for ICE in some cases, but many jurisdictions refuse to detain anyone for deportation, citing community and legal concerns.

Under de Leon’s bill, police could continue to share information about people’s criminal convictions with ICE. Authorities could also transfer immigrants to ICE provided the agency has a judicial warrant.

State Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, questioned whether the bill could affect revenues to local agencies that house immigrants for federal agents. He said he’d like de Leon to form a team to work with, not against, the federal government on immigration. “Collaboration would be a better approach from a leadership standpoint than just trying to poke a stick in the new president’s eye,” he said.

An ICE spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on pending legislation.

There Ought NOT to be a Law


As James Madison warned us, “It will be of little avail to the people if the laws are so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.” And yet the California Legislature is intent on passing more bills, barely understood or complied with by the public.

While there is plenty of room to improve public policy by clarifying statutes and codes through legislation, the Legislature still has to pass a law to remove bad or outdated laws and regulations from the books. This year, Senator John Moorlach is partnering with Senators Andy Vidak, Ted Gaines, Jeff Stone and Jim Nielsen in proposing the reduction or elimination of old, unnecessary, outdated, obtrusive policies that hinder our lives, liberty and prosperity. The “There Ought NOT Be A Law” project is different than similar projects in the past. The goal of this project is not to add any more laws to the books, but to simplify and streamline state law as much as possible. It could be as simple as deleting a problematic word or phrase in a particular code section or as complex as eliminating entire statutes and regulatory structures.


The following process hopefully will result in a bill that passes both houses of the legislature and is signed into law by the Governor.

  1. Any proposal submitted should be clear and consistent with Senator Moorlach and his policy platform. See past legislation introduced HERE. Any proposal should be about good public policy and refrain from personal attacks.
  2. While we have some staff resources to process legislation and draft the final proposal into proper legislative parlance, most of the legwork for proposing the policy change and justifying its passage will need to come from the source of the proposal, the “sponsor”, as it were. If the sponsoring organization is limited in its ability to advocate for specific legislation, but is willing to provide material for general policy changes towards the desired end, we can work with other likeminded groups to advance the policy change with any support that the sponsor can offer.
  3. In order to provide a foundation for the reduction or elimination of a law, we will need the sponsor to provide background material as to justify the proposal. This includes, and is not limited to: research, legal briefs, audits, white papers, best practices from other states, model legislation, statistics, stakeholder input, testimonials, etc.
  4. Beyond having good and pertinent information as to the need for the bill, it will be necessary to build a coalition of supporters who can help shape the legislation and shepherd it through the process. The sponsors will need to assist in recruiting other supporters and collaborators and prepare written and spoken testimony in committee hearings. This could be an opportunity for crowdsourcing experts who do not usually weigh in on the legislative process. It will also be useful to have persuasive pieces and editorials published in the media in furtherance of the policy goal.Legislative deadlines are spread throughout the year, but the most important deadlines are those to have Legislative Counsel draft the bill (January 20th) and introduce the bill (February 17th). In order to pick our chosen bill proposal(s) and accommodate those deadlines, we need any submissions to be made by January 1, 2017. We will announce the chosen submissions by January 15th and work with the selected sponsors to draft the legislation and prepare it for formal introduction.
  5. Legislative deadlines are spread throughout the year, but the most important deadlines are those to have Legislative Counsel draft the bill (late January) and introduce the bill (late February). In order to pick our chosen bill proposal(s) and accommodate those deadlines, we need any submissions to be made by January 1, 2017. We will announce the chosen submissions by January 15th and work with the selected sponsors to draft the legislation and prepare it for formal introduction.

How To Participate:

The application to submit a proposal can be completed HERE. Submissions will be taken until January 1, 2017.

About the Author: John M. W. Moorlach is a Republican California State Senator representing 37th Senate district, which includes portions of Orange County, since March 22, 2015. Moorlach has the distinction of having predicted the largest municipal bond portfolio loss and bankruptcy in U.S. history while campaigning for the office of Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector against incumbent Democrat Robert Citron in 1994. Citron resigned later that year. In 1995 Moorlach was appointed to fill the vacancy, was elected by the voters in 1996 to complete the unexpired term, and re-elected in 1998 and 2002, serving nearly twelve years. In 2006, he opted not to run for re-election as Treasurer-Tax Collector and instead ran for Orange County Supervisor, winning 70% of the vote. He is recognized as a leading expert on municipal bankruptcies.

Lawmakers seek citizens’ help for legislative ideas

Matt Fleming

Two state lawmakers are looking to include constituents in the policy-making process in similar, and yet very different, ways.

While Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, is holding a contest for constituents to pitch their best ideas for a “There Ought to be a Law” contest, Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, aims to do the exact opposite.

Moorlach, partnering with four other Republican senators, is pushing a “There Ought NOT Be A Law” program. Unlike Garcia’s program, the Republican contest is not to write a new law, but to instead simplify and streamline existing state law.

“It could be as simple as deleting a problematic word or phrase in a particular code section or as complex as eliminating entire statutes and regulatory structures,” according to the description.

For Garcia, this is the third iteration of the program. Last session, a group of fifth graders at Bell Gardens Elementary School came up with the idea for Assembly Bill 146, which requires the State Board of Education to consider adding to the curriculum the a mass deportation in the 1930s of citizens of Mexican descent.

The year prior, a two Bell Gardens residents pitched AB 1596, which required that completed mail-in applications be returned straight to county registrars, instead of parties or middlemen. Both of Garcia’s bills became law.

Submit ideas to Moorlach here.

Submit ideas to Garcia here.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Thirteen! — December 6, 2016

Yesterday was supposed to be a simple swearing-in ceremony. Thanks to those who were able to attend! I was even extended the honor of leading the Pledge of Allegiance (for the 31st state admitted into the Union). But, at the conclusion of the formalities, the Democratic super-majority voted to take up a Resolution (SR-7) to poke the incoming President in the eye with a short-stick.

But, let’s get to the super-majority first. After the provisional ballots were counted, Republican State Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang failed in her bid to replace termed out Republican State Senator Bob Huff. So the Republicans in the California Senate are now down to 13. For more, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Fourteen! — November 9, 2016 november 9, 2016 john moorlach.

And, as luck would have it, the Resolution passed with 27 votes. The Associated Press​ provides its perspective below in the version published by The New York Times. It printed in nearly 30 newspapers throughout the nation, including the OC Register and LA Times, and is the first piece below.

Several Senators on both sides of the aisle spoke to the Resolution before I decided to stand up and state that SR-7 "was good showmanship, but poor leadership."

My Floor Speech is available on my website at:

In my last UPDATE, I mentioned our new "There Ought NOT Be A Law" (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Tackling Debts — December 4, 2016 december 4, 2016 john moorlach). Jon Coupal, of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, was kind enough to promote our project in the second piece below. If you have a suggestion, please submit it through the website.

BONUS: You are invited!December 8th is the Proposition 47 Conference. And December 14th is our annual Open House. All the details are available at MOORLACH UPDATE — Sober Living Calendar — November 26, 2016 november 26, 2016 john moorlach.

P.S. For the trivia buffs, today is the twenty-second anniversary of Orange County’s filing for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy.


California Lawmakers Aim to Protect Immigrants From Trump


(Jonathan J. Cooper and Amy Taxin)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers on Monday urged President-elect Donald Trump to refrain from pursuing mass deportations and introduced urgent legislation to fund immigration lawyers and help public defenders protect the state’s immigrants.

Democratic lawmakers also passed resolutions in both chambers urging the incoming administration to uphold a program for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants in the country illegally, despite intense protests from some Republicans.

State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, introduced a bill to fund lawyers for immigrants in deportation proceedings, while Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, proposed helping public defenders assess the immigration consequences of criminal convictions.

Both measures were marked urgent and aim to protect immigrants in California — which has more than 10 million foreign-born residents — from Trump’s campaign promises of tougher immigration enforcement.

"This is a salvo, if you will, across the board to make it very clear that these are the values of California," Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Democrat from Los Angeles, told reporters.

Democratic lawmakers, who hold supermajorities in both chambers, proposed the measures following a heated election year where Trump made border enforcement a central point of his campaign and had harsh rhetoric for Mexican immigrants and Muslims.

On the first day of the new legislative session — which is typically reserved for congratulatory handshakes and bipartisan photo-ops — debate was heated over Democrats’ resolutions urging Trump to continue to issue work permits to young immigrants brought to the country as children. More than 740,000 young people are covered by the program today.

Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, said he thought it was the wrong approach for California to take such an antagonistic tone with a president who is not even inaugurated yet.

"I’m not comfortable with saying we will fight, although I understand it. I think we ought to try to work with this administration," he said. "We should be collaborative. I don’t think defiance is the right approach."

De Leon called the resolution necessary and urgent as children are afraid their parents will be deported.

Gov. Jerry Brown declined to take a position Monday on the immigration legislation being introduced. But he said he’ll "look very carefully at whatever they propose."

"I have signed some similar measures in the past, at least through the budget," he told reporters in his office. "I am very supportive of the people of California and those who have come here more recently, so I’ll take a good look at whatever they present."

About 2.4 million immigrants in California lack legal status, according to estimates by the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

The two immigration bills introduced Monday could cost the state between $10 million and $80 million, according to proponents.

Immigrant advocates said other bills are also being considered to further limit federal immigration enforcement in California and protect immigrants’ information in state databases.

In recent years, California has passed a series of measures to assist and protect immigrants in the country illegally, for example, limiting the cases when local law enforcement can turn over immigrant arrestees for deportation.

California offers state-subsidized health care to children from low-income families who are in the country illegally and issues driver’s licenses regardless of legal status.

There Ought NOT Be a Law

Sometimes, in frustration over a perceived injustice, it is easy to think, “there ought to be a law,” but Californians should be careful what they wish for.

The state is awash in laws. Every two-year session, lawmakers introduce thousands of bills, and in the most recent, the governor signed 1,708 into law.

This brings to mind an old German proverb, “The more laws, the less justice.” This is because many of these bills are intended to benefit narrow special interests, like government employee unions, rent seeking businesses and professional groups, and pet projects like high-speed rail.

Then there are the less damaging bills that still amount to a waste of time and taxpayer dollars, although many of these provide a good source of amusement. Although some of the silliest laws are at the local level – in Chico detonating a nuclear device will cost you $500, in Carmel women are prohibited from wearing high heels and in San Francisco it is illegal to store anything but a car in a garage – the state continues to attempt to be competitive. In California, it is illegal for a vehicle to exceed 60 mph if there is no driver.

In Sacramento, for many self-absorbed Legislators, getting a bill passed is an extension of their ego. Perhaps this helps explain why, some years ago, a bill was introduced to make the banana slug the state mollusk. That one did not pass, but still, California was the first state to adopt a state rock, serpentine. Ironically, after spending time on approving this selection in 1965, it came up again in 2010 when one state senator decided serpentine is politically incorrect because it contains asbestos and she promoted legislation to remove its state status.

For some, just introducing legislation, whether it passes or not, has become a source of income. Twenty years ago, one senator introduced 143 bills in one session. This turned out to be a pay for play scheme where bills were introduced for those willing to pay. This lawmaker ended up spending time in prison for accepting bribes, and the public scrutiny forced the politicians to limit the number of bills that can be introduced to 40. Still, with 120 legislators, this means that there is the potential to introduce a mind-boggling 4,800 bills, each with the potential to become law. And introducing bills remains an effective method for raising campaign cash.

Even the most innocuous seeming bills can be a problem for taxpayers. Several years ago, Gov. Schwarzenegger criticized the Legislature for dithering over finding a solution to the state’s then $26 billion deficit, while plenty of time was found to deal with the issue of cow tail docking.

While humane treatment of animals may deserve consideration, taking time to pass a law, like making Spanish moss the official state lichen, has a cost. Even if we consider lawmakers’ time worthless, and many do, there are still thousands of dollars spent on legal analyses by the Office of the Legislative Analyst and on printing costs.

This raises the question, do lawmakers still have too much latitude when determining how may bills they introduce? Some states, like Colorado, survive while limiting legislators to no more than five.

And what about the tens of thousands of laws already on the books? Certainly, there is justification to make an examination and to seek to simplify the legal code under which we all must live, by striking those found to be unnecessary.

Enter Senator John Moorlach who has kicked off the “There Ought Not Be a Law” project and is looking for submissions from the public on repealing laws that would help streamline government, and remove regulations that impose unreasonable burdens on taxpayers. The senator will be taking nominations for laws to be reduced or repealed until the first of the year. To learn more, go here.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Tackling Debts — December 4, 2016

I’ve been frustrated with the lack of a ten-year financial plan in Sacramento, as we utilized one in Orange County. So, I’ve been banging the drum on the subject (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Budget and Tax Reform — June 13, 2016 june 13, 2016 john moorlach).

Three weeks ago, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office issued a report showing that the state will be flush with cash when forecasting this upcoming year’s budget. Not so fast. A forecast is a forecast is a forecast. The OC Register provides my thoughts below.

BONUS: Charter Communications recently interviewed me on one component of California’s massive debt, the unfunded actuarial accrued liability. You can see it at:

DOUBLE BONUS: Starting this month, our office, in conjunction with the offices of Senators Vidak, Gaines, Stone and Nielsen, we instigated the "There Ought NOT Be a Law" project. Here’s a portion of the announcement:

We propose the reduction or elimination of old, unnecessary, outdated, and obtrusive policies that hinder our lives, liberty and prosperity. The “There Ought NOT Be A Law” project is different than similar projects in the past. The goal of this project is not to add any more laws to the books, but to simplify and streamline state law as much as possible. It could be as simple as deleting a problematic word or phrase in a particular code section or as complex as eliminating entire statutes and regulatory structures. With that context, we invite you, and any of your supporters and subscribers to join our offices in this project.

Starting December 1st, we’ll officially start taking submissions. Please learn about the process and application HERE.

As we receive the proposals, we will share them amongst our offices so the Senators and staff can decide which will move forward in the legislative process. It is our intent to have our selected proposals drafted into official Senate Bills by early January. Considering the make-up of the current legislature, there is no guarantee that any of the proposals will get the votes they need or signature of the governor. But we think that the discussion on reducing our voluminous laws needs to take place and we’re happy to facilitate it.

TRIPLE BONUS: A busy calendar. Tomorrow, December 5th, is my Swearing-In at the Capitol. December 8th is the Proposition 47 Conference. And
December 14th is our annual Open House.

All the details are available at MOORLACH UPDATE — Sober Living Calendar — November 26, 2016 november 26, 2016 john moorlach.



State must tackle its debts

By JOHN MOORLACH / Contributing writer

The Legislative Analyst’s Office recently announced that it is forecasting a $2.8 billion budget surplus for the state of California next year.

As the SNL Church Lady would say, “Isn’t that special?”

But, it’s not special. I believe the report’s conclusions are deficient, as many fiscal concerns are being smoothed over, rather than being highlighted. The LAO takes an auto-pilot approach in its assumptions. This is understandable, but it screams for a leadership decision to make a major course change. Sacramento needs to re-evaluate the priorities for its most obvious obligations.

Why do I say this? Because California has the largest unrestricted net deficit of any of the 50 states. It’s nearly $170 billion – and growing. And this number does not take into account other significant unfunded liabilities. So, a $2.8 billion budget surplus may be special, but it is illusory.

With this in mind, let’s ask Gov. Brown to use this supposed surplus for the real fiscal demands facing our children and grandchildren, and not toward more new programs. With budget season around the corner, there are allocations he must consider.

We’re told that deferred maintenance for the state’s roads and highways is some $59 billion. Let’s start saving up. Why does California not set funds aside for future repairs and improvements? Instead, Sacramento screams for a new tax after things have fallen apart. If it set funds aside in a methodical manner for these costs over the next 30 years, the annual budgeted amount would be $2 billion.

The state is only making the minimum required annual contribution into its retirement plans. Yet, CalPERS alone has fallen behind nearly $50 billion in the last two years on its meager investment returns. While CalPERS has a long-term plan to reduce its expected rate of return assumption, perhaps it’s time to accelerate the annual contributions to pay down the unfunded liabilities. If a 10 percent increase was added to the annual contribution, it would require another $800 million out of the budget.

These two critical investments would increase the state’s general spending by the $2.8 billion. But, there is more. California has an unfunded actuarial accrued liability of $80 billion for retiree health care. Promises to pay for the medical costs of retired state employees will come due. If the trust fund that is utilized to manage this obligation has an earnings assumption of 7.5 percent and the Capitol pays this balance off like a mortgage over 30 years, then the annual set aside would have to be $6.7 billion (such is the cost of compounded interest).

With this, the budget would have a deficit. At least the LAO has accounted for other costs on the horizon. The voters just approved Proposition 51, the $9 billion school bond measure. This adds another $500 million a year into the mix to pay for the principle and interest.

And, that’s not all. The governor raised the minimum wage earlier this year to $15 per hour. His own estimates show that it will cost the budget $4 billion per year in additional personnel costs.

I would suggest that the governor’s last two years in office be spent improving the state’s fiscal house. I recommend he focus on the following:

1. More expeditiously fund the retiree medical liability. Asking employees to fund this massive debt through payroll withholdings will fall woefully short of the goal.

2. Set funds aside for future infrastructure improvements and repairs, just like the state demands of homeowners’ associations. We have reached capacity on debt issuances and must start paying as we go.

3. Gov. Brown acknowledged that we cannot address the pension debt in a year or two, or even ten. However, it needs to be addressed now. And that can be done by paying a little more than required to accelerate the payoff schedule.

4 Start reducing the state’s workforce, as compensation and benefit costs are rising. This can easily be done through the increasing attrition of baby boomer employees. Stop new hiring where feasible. Outsource where possible.

If Sacramento squanders this period of supposed budget surpluses, then the next fiscal downturn will see California taken to its fiscal knees. And, with the new administration in Washington, D.C., a bailout will be about as likely as Gov. Jerry Brown coming back for two more terms after a brief break.

It’s time to make California fiscally solvent, and it will take strong fiscal leadership. Wouldn’t that be special?

John Moorlach is a state Senator representing the 37th District.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — California Rule Recuse? — November 28, 2016

Calpensions has become one of the most authoritative research resources on California’s pensions to be found on the internet. Ed Mendel is a former reporter who has been enjoying this niche by utilizing his acquired skills during his retirement.

Below, Mr. Mendel addresses a recent Appellate Court case out of Marin County that will have a major impact on revising the so-called "California Rule" which vests contract rights forever, prohibiting a governing body from modifying future benefits while keeping promised benefits whole. This is a pension solution that I have been advocating for many years (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Pension Overhaul — September 6, 2012 september 6, 2012 john moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — San Diego U-T — October 13, 2013 october 14, 2013 john moorlach).

As an Orange County Supervisor, I have had success in retiree medical litigation, which is addressed in the Calpensions piece below (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Retiree Medical Reform — March 3, 2014 march 3, 2014 john moorlach).

The piece also refers to Governor Brown’s pension reforms, so I’ll give you one link on this subject (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Brown Pension Reform — April 1, 2011 april 1, 2011 john moorlach).

The piece begins with the disappointing litigation loss that I incurred on my efforts as an Orange County Supervisor to address the unconstitutional granting of retroactive pension benefits (see MOORLACH UPDATE — POBs — February 5, 2011 february 5, 2011 john moorlach).

The California State Supreme Court refused to hear the County’s appeal. We later learned that the newly appointed Chief Justice was also married to a police officer. So beyond the challenges of having a judge rule on her own pension, her husband’s interests were also in play. These two conflicts of interests should have been revealed then and must be revealed in the future. It looks like Arizona had a novel way of dealing with the conflicted justices. Perhaps that’s a guide to future rulings in California?

The California State Supreme Court should be the home of pure constitutional scholarship. I believed this once upon a time. I don’t now. So, call me a skeptic about the Marin County case and how it will fare in this state’s highest court.

But, fully believe that I am hoping that the Supreme Court will finally fix this poor "California Rule" judicial decision, and the resulting multi-billion dollar problem it created. Without a favorable ruling for the Marin County case, the "California Rule" will continue to bankrupt cities and counties, putting the state in a problematic situation. One that our children and grandchildren will bear, without the benefits, for generations to come. There is a solution to this fiscal pretzel. One can only hope.

BONUS: Invitations!

Tonight is our Sober-Living Homes Town Hall

December 5th Swearing-In at the Capitol.

December 8th is the Proposition 47 Conference.

December 14th is our annual Open House.

All the details are available at MOORLACH UPDATE — Sober Living Calendar — November 26, 2016 november 26, 2016 john moorlach.


Supreme Court agrees to rule on its own pensions

The state Supreme Court last week agreed to hear an appeal of a groundbreaking ruling that allows cuts in the pensions earned by current state and local government workers, including judges.

When judges have an obvious conflict of interest and excuse themselves from ruling on a case, the legal term is “recuse.”

But the seven Supreme Court justices seem unlikely to recuse themselves from a possible landmark ruling on this Marin County pension case, mainly because there is no clear alternative.

There is at least one well-publicized example of how judges ruling on their own pensions creates the appearance of self-serving, if not what President-elect Trump called a “rigged” system.

As Orange County unsuccessfully tried to overturn a retroactive pension increase for deputy sheriffs, an attorney arguing the case for the deputies in 2011 reminded the judges they were ruling on their own pensions.

“Miriam A. Vogel, a retired Court of Appeal justice, clearly told her former colleagues that the court’s decision would affect every pension in the state of California: ‘(I)t would affect yours, it would affect mine,’” former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach (now a state senator) wrote in the Orange County Register.

“Then she took a couple of questions and sat down. She gave no legal citations, no elaborate arguments. Nothing,”Moorlach wrote.

The Arizona supreme court had an obvious way to avoid ruling on their own pensions earlier this month. Two appeals court judges sued to overturn reform legislation in 2011 that increased their pension contributions from 7 percent of pay to 13 percent.

Four Supreme Court justices appointed before 2011 recused themselves, leaving the decision to a panel of one Supreme Court justice and four lower-court judges who took office after 2011 and were not affected by the reform.

The panel overturned the reform on a 3-to-2 vote, costing the Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System an estimated $220 million in back payments and adding $1.3 billion to the pension debt or “unfunded liability.”

The majority ruled that the pension promised at hire becomes a contract that can’t be cut, the Associated Press reported. The minority, including Justice Clint Bolick, said freezing contributions could jeopardize the pension plan.

Arizona switched new judges and elected officials to 401(k)-style plans in 2013, limiting pensions from the system to police, firefighters and correctional officers. A pension reform approved by voters earlier this year is projected to save $475 million.

In Rhode Island last year, an embattled judge who refused to recuse herself approved a settlement of union suits against major cost-cutting reforms after accepting a state motion to have a jury hear the cases.

A nationally known lawyer, David Boies, and others urged Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter to recuse herself because the ruling could affect her pension in addition to the pensions of her son, mother and uncle.

“If my financial interest should require disqualification, then all other state judges would be similarly required to recuse themselves,” Taft-Carter told the New York Times. “Plaintiffs brought this case the way they did to try to avoid federal jurisdiction,” Boies said.

The settlement retained 92 percent of the $4 billion savings expected from reforms that increase the retirement age, shift workers to a federal-style hybrid plan combining smaller pensions with a 401(k)-style plan, and suspend cost-of-living adjustments, the Providence Journal reported.

The Journal said giving the cases to a jury would make it more difficult for unions to prove that pensions are implied contracts. The leader of the reforms, Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who became governor, argued that pensions created by statute can be amended like statutes.


CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT JUSTICES — Left to right, standing: Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, Carol Corrigan, Goodwin Liu, and Leondra Kruger. Seated: Kathryn Werdegar, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and Ming Chin.

In California, some union suits challenging cost-cutting reforms in retiree health care have been filed in federal court, where judges have no state conflict. Pension suits are rarely if ever filed in federal court.

Landmark guidelines issued in a retiree health care case five years ago seemed to show federal court deference to state law and may foreshadow how the state Supreme Court will view the new pension case.

An agreement negotiated with Orange County unions in 2008 separated active and retired worker health care premiums, ending a pool begun in 1985 that raised county costs but cut payments by retirees because their age-related coverage costs more.

When the cut was upheld by a district court and appealed by retirees, the federal 9th circuit court asked the state Supreme Court: “Whether, as a matter of California law, a California county and its employees can form an implied contract that confers vested rights to health benefits on retired county employees.”

The state Supreme Court unanimously said in 2011 that a contract with vested rights “can be implied under certain circumstances from a county ordinance or resolution” if an intent to do so can be shown by evidence.

A federal district court, following the new state guidelines, again ruled that Orange County can end the retiree health care pool. The federal 9th circuit panel upheld the ruling in 2014.

The Marin County appellate court ruling in August gave new hope to cost-cutting pension reformers, and alarmed pension advocates, by breaking with what has become known as the “California rule”:

Pensions offered at hire become vested rights, protected by contract law, that can only be cut if offset by a comparable new benefit, which erases employer savings and limits most reforms to new hires without vested rights.

The rigid contract rule created by California judges in previous rulings (not by legislation, as reformers like to point out) has only been adopted by a dozen states. There is no similar rule for the remaining private-sector pensions regulated by a 1974 federal law.

With a section on the “emergence of the unfunded pension liability crisis,” the unanimous ruling by a three-member appellate panel in the Marin County case is aimed at allowing flexible cuts in growing pension costs that are taking funding from basic government services.

The bipartisan Little Hoover Commission and other reformers argue that allowing cuts in the pensions earned by current workers in the future, while protecting pensions already earned, is urgently needed to cut budget-devouring costs and make pensions affordable in the future.

Observing the California rule, Gov. Brown’s modest pension reform only applies to new hires, taking decades to yield significant savings. The reforms cover CalPERS, CalSTRS and county systems, but not UC and the half dozen troubled big-city pension systems.

The reform also exempts new judges from some of the cost-cutting provisions, lower pensions and a cap on total pension amounts. Judges often seem to be treated like a special case by the Legislature and the California Public Employees Retirement System.

Among CalPERS plans only judges have the most generous pension formula because they tend to enter the system at a later age and retire late. And only judges are eligible for retiree health care that pays 100 percent of the premium after 10 years of service, not 20 years like most state workers.

In addition, the main judges plan was 100 percent funded last year, far above 68 percent for the average CalPERS plan this year.

Judges hired before Nov. 9, 1994, are still in the only CalPERS pay-as-you-go plan with no investment fund. An annual CalPERS letter urging “prefunding” of the old plan said long-term costs would be cut and retirees assured of a pension check, if legislative funding is delayed.

Lawmakers and judges can clash. A superior court judge awarded judges back pay with 10 percent interest of about $5,000 per judge and a pension increase, ruling that a five-year salary freeze did not keep pace with increases in state worker pay as required by law.

Brown pushed legislation this year to end the link with state worker pay, Courthouse News Service reported, which would force judges to “beg” lawmakers for pay raises. Compromise legislation kept a modified state worker link, but sharply cut the back pay interest to about 0.5 percent of pay.

The Marin County case accepted by the Supreme Court last week is a union challenge to “anti-spiking” provisions in Brown’s reform legislation that prevent pensions from being boosted by stand-by duty, in-kind health care and other things.

The Supreme Court said it will delay action on the Marin case until an appellate court rules on similar union challenges to Brown’s “anti-spiking” reform in a consolidation of cases from Alameda, Contra Costa and Merced counties.

Reporter Ed Mendel covered the Capitol in Sacramento for nearly three decades, most recently for the San Diego Union-Tribune. More stories are at


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Sober Living Calendar — November 26, 2016

I’m hoping you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It’s the end of the calendar year, and while you’re enjoying a long weekend, please pull out your calendars. My District Office is providing you with a few opportunities before the next Session officially starts after the first of the year.

November 28

I have two colleagues who are working on legislation to deal with sober living homes. I’m joining them for a public hearing in Costa Mesa on Monday evening. If you have any insights that would be helpful for the discussion, please come. The Daily Pilotprovides the piece below on the event. The article is followed by an invitation by the hosting body, the Association of California Cities – Orange County, which provides registration information.

December 5

The California State Senators that were elected this month will be sworn in on the Senate Floor in the Capitol at 11:30 a.m. If you are interested in attending, please contact my District Office, 714-662-6050, for more information.

December 8

My office is hosting a morning conference on the subject of Proposition 47. This statewide ballot measure passed two years ago and many are observing that crime statistics are on the rise. Is there a correlation? Will the recent voter approval of Proposition 57 be seamless or compound this situation? This event will be held at the University of California, Irvine, and is also co-hosted with the the Association of California Cities – Orange County.

For more information, please contact Robert Nash at Robert.Nash, David Mansdoerfer at David.Mansdoerfer, or Scott Carpenter at Scott.Carpenter. Two flyers are provided below for more information.

December 14

You are invited to our annual Christmas Open House. The flyer is provided at the bottom of this e-mail. Afterwards, as our District Office is located across from South Coast Plaza and MetroPointe, with a brief walk, you can enjoy some unfinished Christmas shopping.

Sober-living town hall set for Monday in Costa Mesa

By Luke Money

Sober-living homes will be the topic of a town hall meeting scheduled for Monday in Costa Mesa.

The event, sponsored by the Assn. of California Cities-Orange County and the Orange County Assn. of Realtors, will include remarks from a panel of legal experts and elected officials, as well as a question-and-answer period.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa)and Assembly members Travis Allen and Matthew Harper, both Republicans from Huntington Beach, are among those expected to attend.

In recent years, officials and residents in cities throughout Orange County — including Costa Mesa — have raised concerns about the proliferation of sober-living homes, which generally house recovering drug and alcohol addicts who are considered disabled under state and federal law.

Proponents say such facilities offer a safe and secure place for people seeking to stay sober. But critics say the homes can disrupt neighborhoods and contribute to parking and traffic problems, crime, noise, secondhand smoke and other negative effects.

Monday’s town hall will run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Ave. For more information or to RSVP, visit

Twitter: @LukeMMoney


Click here to register


Click here to register



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Moorlach, 37th District.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Meddlesome SCA 8 — November 21, 2016

I first mentioned an annoying habit Sacramento seems to have, of wanting to meddle in the affairs of local governments, shortly after I arrived in the Capitol (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Butt Out — June 13, 2015 june 13, 2015 john moorlach).

In the closing hours of the 2015 Session, I worked hard on the Senate Floor to prevent SCA 8 from garnering the necessary two-thirds vote that a request to put something on the statewide ballot requires.  Fortunately, my colleagues may have seen the self-serving component of this proposal.  However, it did receive full support of the customary motion to reconsideration, but the author decided against bringing it back for a Floor vote the following and last day of the 2015 Session or at any time during the 2016 Session (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Winsome Session — September 12, 2015 september 12, 2015 john moorlach).

Last month, a hearing with the Senate Governance and Finance Committee was held in Los Angeles.  Regretfully, I had made a prior commitment to be the luncheon speaker on October 27th and was unable to participate.  I did send a letter to the Joint Committee Chair with some of the concerns that I have provided below in yesterday’s OC Register Commentary section.

On July 1, 2015, when the bill came before the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, on which I sit, I asked the author and co-author if either had served as a County Supervisor.  They had not.  They were concerned about diversity.  But both Orange County and Los Angeles County were models for diversity on their Boards of Supervisors.

For more on this Hearing, see the Agenda:

See the Briefing: for a briefing.

BONUS — DECEMBER 5:  I will be officially sworn in to my next term as the Senator for the 37th District on December 5th in Sacramento.  The Floor Session starts at 11:30 a.m. It will be a mini-inauguration, of sorts, but in Sacramento.  If you are interested in attending, please contact my District Office, 714-662-6050, for more information.  I will make sure your Capitol experience is a memorable one.

BONUS — DECEMBER 8:  My office is hosting a morning conference on the subject of Proposition 47.  This statewide ballot measure passed two years ago and we are observing that crime statistics are on the rise.  Is there a correlation?  This event will be held at the University of California, Irvine.  Save the date.  For more information, please contact Robert Nash at, David Mansdoerfer at, or Scott Carpenter at

BONUS — DECEMBER 14:  Our District Office’s Annual Christmas Open House will start at 3 p.m. and conclude at 5 p.m.  If you need an excuse to get to South Coast Plaza or MetroPointe, then please RSVP at 714-662-0550 and drop in.  Our address is 940 South Coast Drive, Suite 185.


Unwanted meddling from state Capitol

Expanding county supervisor boards: What exactly are we trying to solve?


By JOHN MOORLACH / Contributing writer


There’s a basic truth worth remembering whenever someone proposes new legislation: What problem is it attempting to solve? This political guidepost came to mind in the last session when reviewing State Constitutional Amendment 8, which would have forced several counties in California to increase the number of seats on their boards of supervisors.

When I first became a state senator last year, I made a disappointing observation, which has remained both consistently and inconveniently true. Sacramento appears to enjoy meddling in the affairs of counties and cities. This was especially true of SCA 8, which would have affected Orange County and four or five of California’s more populous counties.

SCA 8 would have forced those counties, determined after the 2020 Census to have populations exceeding 2 million residents, to increase the number of elected supervisors on county boards from five to seven members. On its face, SCA 8 might appear noble, but the effort comes with little knowledge of the nuances that can only be understood by one who has served on a county board. As a former member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, I speak to this with first-hand knowledge.

As I testified in opposition to SCA 8 on the Senate Floor on September 10, 2015, any county that wants to expand its board can already do so through amending its own charter by an initiative. SCA 8 failed to garner enough votes.

Please bear in mind that to the best of my knowledge, no members of the public, from Orange County or elsewhere, have requested assistance from Sacramento when it comes to determining how many board members are needed to best represent their diverse interests.

Further, legal mechanisms are already in place to expand the size of county boards should the need arise. The public, via the initiative process, can put the question of representation on the ballot. Orange County attempted this with Measure U in 1996. It attempted to expand our board from five to nine members. It failed. Voters realized that, even immediately after the Orange County bankruptcy, a larger board size would have made little to no difference.

Even though SCA 8 was set aside during this past legislative session, Sacramento’s curiosity, or meddling, in how county governments run their own business is still very much alive in Sacramento. In recent days, a joint hearing of the Senate Committees on Governance and Finance and Elections and Constitutional Amendments was convened to question the size of county boards of supervisors, among other issues. Do not be surprised if the hearing leads to new (and expensive) proposals to mandate how county governments manage themselves when lawmakers return to Sacramento next year.

Again, these top-down efforts appear to be both unwelcome and unnecessary.

Traditionally, when county populations grow sufficiently to make representation difficult, the solution has been to split off new counties from existing ones. In fact, the formation of Orange County, as well as Imperial and Kings counties, took place under existing legal mechanisms, which included a vote of the people.

If population is truly a concern, then why isn’t there a State Constitutional Amendment to merge smaller counties? Sacramento would be doing these counties a favor. Alpine County has as many residents as does Sunset Beach. It has its own elected sheriff and district attorney. That’s a lot of infrastructure for 1,200 people.

Perhaps minimum populations should be reviewed. Then, SCA 8 wouldn’t look like an attempt to create places for termed-out legislators to land.

SCA 8 is exactly what meddling looks like. It’s an unwelcome and unnecessary cram-down solution when other alternatives already exist.

John Moorlach represents the 37th State Senate District.



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MOORLACH UPDATE — 2016 Scorecards — November 15, 2016

There are a number of organizations in Sacramento that have outstanding reputations of defending small businesses and taxpayers. They usually have a portfolio of bills that they monitor, encouraging a support or opposition position. At the end of Session, they usually provide their analysis of how the State Senators voted.

These legislative scorecards are provided below in the same order. They are from the:

California Taxpayers Association (CalTax), where I earned a perfect score;

California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA), where I also earned a perfect score (you’ll have to click on the link);

National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), where I also earned a perfect score and includes a narrative from The Flashreport;

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, where I earned an 85.5 percent score. So, let me explain.

AB 700 — Abstained (Laid Off) — I believe that more disclosure in campaign mailers is required, but that the overall bill had deficiencies that exceeded this intent. My abstention is a signal that I’m willing to work with the proponents for a better piece of legislation in the future.

AB 1494 — Aye — I believe that ballot selfies are a First Amendment right.

AB 1921 — Aye — I support vote by mail.

AB 2586 — No — I oppose Sacramento’s dictating how cities should manage their affairs, including the parking of vehicles.

SB 450 — Aye — I support vote by mail.

California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber), where I also earned a perfect score.

BONUS: It takes a strong team behind me to drive our policy and messaging and I have a great one. My legislative support staff is highly regarded in the Capitol. They work diligently behind the scenes and have to be flexible, especially with a boss who can go “independent” at times, as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association score indicates. I’m pleased to announce a new addition, Eric Dietz. His bio is provided directly below:

Policy Consultant: Eric Dietz
Eric Dietz has almost a decade of experience working for the California legislature. While majoring in Government at California State University, Sacramento and serving on the Board of Directors for College Republicans, Mr. Dietz discovered his passion for politics. This passion is what led him to a career in the Legislature where he has worked for four members of the California State Assembly. Mr. Dietz began his political career as a Field Representative in San Diego, but quickly realized the State Capitol is where he wanted to be. During his time in the State Capitol, Mr. Dietz has worked on a variety of issues including the state budget, elections, labor, public employment, and pensions. Mr. Dietz is also very active in the Sacramento community where he volunteers for several different organizations.

Joel Anderson R-El Cajon (SD 38) 100.00%
Patricia Bates R-Laguna Hills (SD 36) 100.00%
Tom Berryhill R-Oakdale (SD 8) 100.00%
Ted Gaines R-El Dorado Hills (SD 1) 100.00%
Bob Huff R-Brea (SD 29) 100.00%
John M. W. Moorlach R-Costa Mesa (SD 37) 100.00%
Mike Morrell R-Rancho Cucamonga (SD 23) 100.00%
Janet Nguyen R-Garden Grove (SD 34) 100.00%
Jim Nielsen R-Roseville (SD 4) 100.00%
Sharon Runner R-Lancaster (SD 21) 100.00%
Jeff Stone R-Murrieta (SD 28) 100.00%
Andy Vidak R-Fresno (SD 14) 100.00%
Jean Fuller R-Bakersfield (SD 16) 96.15%
Anthony Cannella R-Merced (SD 12) 92.59%
Cathleen Galgiani D-Stockton (SD 5) 84.62%
Richard Roth D-Riverside (SD 31) 70.37%
Steve Glazer D-Walnut Creek (SD 7) 61.54%
Ben Hueso D-Chula Vista (SD 40) 56.00%
Jim Beall D-Campbell (SD 15) 50.00%
Marty Block D-San Diego (SD 39) 50.00%
Kevin de León D-Los Angeles (SD 24) 50.00%
Bob Hertzberg D-Van Nuys (SD 18) 50.00%
Hannah-Beth Jackson D-Santa Barbara (SD 19) 50.00%
William Monning D-Monterey (SD 17) 50.00%
Richard Pan D-Sacramento (SD 6) 50.00%
Ed Hernandez D-West Covina (SD 22) 48.39%
Jerry Hill D-San Mateo (SD 13) 48.28%
Ricardo Lara D-Long Beach (SD 33) 46.67%
Holly Mitchell D-Los Angeles (SD 30) 46.67%
Fran Pavley D-Calabasas (SD 27) 46.67%
Mark Leno D-San Francisco (SD 11) 46.43%
Bob Wieckowski D-Fremont (SD 10) 46.43%
Carol Liu D-Glendale (SD 25) 46.15%
Connie Leyva D-Chino (SD 20) 44.83%
Mike McGuire D-Santa Rosa (SD 2) 44.83%
Ben Allen D-Redondo Beach (SD 26) 44.44%
Isadore Hall D-San Pedro (SD 35) 44.44%
Lois Wolk D-Vacaville (SD 3) 42.31%
Loni Hancock D-Oakland (SD 9) 40.74%
Tony Mendoza D-Cerritos (SD 32) 40.74% = 9-0

CMTA vote record reveals legislative champions for

manufacturing competitiveness in California

Sacramento, CA — Today the California Manufacturers & Technology Association
(CMTA) released its 2016 Manufacturing Vote Record for the state’s 120 legislators.
It identifies action taken on the nine most important floor votes in the Assembly and

You can download the 2016 Manufacturing Vote Record here showing that 49
legislators, including Democrats and Republicans, support California manufacturers
on more than half the bills.

“CMTA thanks the many legislators who understand the importance of California’s
innovative manufacturers and the good jobs they create in the state,” said CMTA
President Dorothy Rothrock. “As the most advanced and energy efficient
manufacturing economy in the world, it should be a high priority to make California
competitive for new manufacturing investments to meet our ambitious state
economic and environmental goals.”

CMTA notes that there were many important manufacturing votes, on the floor and in
policy committees, not included in this analysis. The bills included in the Vote Record
represent the industry priority bills that received one or more floor votes during the

Reality Check: Which legislators are failing small


Posted by Tom Scott at 7:01 am on Oct 04, 2016NFIB/CA - 8th Annual Day at the Capitol Event

tom scott

It’s easy to be a politician and claim to be a friend of small business. However, the annual NFIB Voting Record separates political rhetoric from reality. Each year, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)/California walks the halls of the State Capitol urging legislators to support small business in California. We know that the health of the California economy depends very much on the health of California’s small businesses.

We also know there is a critical difference between saying you’re a friend of small business during campaign season, then once elected voting against small businesses at every turn. Following what was truly one of the most devastating years for small businesses in the State Capitol, NFIB today unveiled its 2016 voting record which provides a reality check as to who is and is not putting their votes where their rhetoric is.

NFIB/CA identifies and lobbies on bills which would have the most significant impact, either positive or negative, on small businesses. Based on their vote on these critical pieces of legislation, each member of the Legislature receives a percentage indicating how often he or she voted to support small business. We are pleased to see 13 Senators and 31 Assemblymembers voted with small business at least 70 percent of the time, but these numbers still only represent a minority of each chamber’s membership.

It is especially alarming to see some members of the legislature only receiving 17 or 18 percent with NFIB, while having some of the highest unemployment rates in California in their districts. We urge those who are failing small business to reflect on our voting record and strive to support small business with their votes in 2017.

As for our 100% club and NFIB friends of small business, we applaud your efforts in the State Capitol to support small businesses. Together, we understand the only way to rebuild our economy and strengthen our communities starts with supporting small businesses and protecting them from additional taxes, mandates, and complex regulation.

NFIB/CA assessed California legislators on 12 bills vital to the health of small business in California during the 2016 half of the 2015-16 legislative session. 29 legislators had impressive 100% scores; however 62 legislators failed small business this year with scores ranging from 27% to just 8%. The complete NFIB Voting Record with the bill numbers, description, and votes can be found here.

Tom Scott is the State Executive Director for NFIB California, which represents 22,000 dues-paying small business members across the state.

NFIB 100% Club
Senator Joel Anderson (38, Alpine) 100%
Senator Patricia Bates (36, Laguna Niguel) 100%
Senator Tom Berryhill (08, Modesto) 100%
Senator Anthony Cannella (12, Ceres) 100%
Senator Jean Fuller (16, Bakersfield) 100%
Senator Ted Gaines (01, El Dorado Hills) 100%
Senator Bob Huff (29, San Dimas) 100%
Senator John Moorlach (37, Costa Mesa) 100%
Senator Mike Morrell (23, Rancho Cucamonga) 100%
Senator Janet Nguyen (34, Garden Grove) 100%
Senator Jim Nielsen (04, Gerber) 100%
Senator Jeff Stone (28, Temecula) 100%
Senator Andy Vidak (14, Hanford) 100%
Assemblymember Travis Allen (72,Huntington Beach) 100%
Assemblymember Frank Bigelow (05, O’Neals) 100%
Assemblymember William Brough (73, Dana Point) 100%
Assemblymember Beth Gaines (06, El Dorado Hills) 100%
Assemblymember James Gallagher (03, Nicolaus) 100%
Assemblymember Shannon Grove (34, Bakersfield) 100%
Assemblymember Matthew Harper (74, Huntington Beach) 100%
Assemblymember Brian Jones (71, Santee) 100%
Assemblymember Young Kim (65, Fullerton) 100%
Assemblymember Tom Lackey (36 Palmdale) 100%
Assemblymember Devon Mathis (26, Visalia) 100%
Assemblymember Chad Mayes (42, Yucca Valley) 100%
Assemblymember Jay Obernolte (33, Big Bear Lake) 100%
Assemblymember Jim Patterson (23, Fresno) 100%
Assemblymember Donald Wagner (68, Irvine) 100%
Assemblymember Scott Wilk (38, San Clarita) 100%
NFIB Friends of Small Business
Assemblymember Rocky Chavez (76, Oceanside) 92%
Assemblymember Marc Steinorth (40, Rancho Cucamonga) 92%
Assemblymember Marie Waldron (75, Escondido) 92%
Assemblymember Ling-Ling Chang (55, Diamond Bar) 91%
Assemblymember Brian Dahle (01, Bieber) 91%
Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian (35, San Luis Obispo) 83%
Assemblymember Melissa Melendez (67, Lake Elsinore) 83%
Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (77, San Diego) 82%
Assemblymember Kristin Olsen (12, Modesto) 82%
Assemblymember Tom Daly (69, Anaheim) 75%
Assemblymember David Hadley (66, Manhattan Beach) 73%
Assemblymember Rudy Salas (32, Bakersfield) 73%
Assemblymember Adam Gray (21, Merced) 71%
Assemblymember Catharine Baker (16, Dublin) 70%
Assemblymember Eric Linder (60, Corona) 70%
Needs Improvement
Assemblymember Jim Cooper (09, Elk Grove) 64%
Assemblymember Jim Frazier (11, Oakley) 64%
Senator Steven Glazer (07, Orinda) 55%
Assemblymember Cheryl Brown (47, San Bernardino) 50%
Assemblymember Nora Campos (27, San Jose) 45%
Assemblymember Ken Cooley (08, Rancho Cordova) 42%
Assemblymember Matthew Dababneh (45, Encino) 42%
Assemblymember Bill Dodd (04, Napa) 42%
Assemblymember Mike Gipson (64, Carson) 38%
Assemblymember Jose Medina (61, Riverside) 36%
Senator Richard Roth (31, Riverside) 33%
Assemblymember Chris Holden (41, Pasadena) 30%
Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (44, Thousand Oaks) 30%
Failing Small Business
Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (31, Fresno) 27%
Assemblymember Ian Calderon (57, Whittier) 27%
Assemblymember Ed Chau (49, Arcadia) 27%
Assemblymember Kansen Chu (25, San Jose) 27%
Assemblymember Marc Levine (10, San Rafael) 27%
Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (54, Los Angeles) 27%
Assemblymember Freddie Rodriquez (52, Pomona) 27%
Assemblymember Shirley Weber (79, Santa Clarita) 27%
Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (14, Concord) 25%
Assemblymember Mike Gatto (43, Glendale) 25%
Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez (51, Los Angeles) 25%
Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (13, Stockton) 22%
Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (56, Coachella) 22%
Assemblymember Autumn Burke (62, Inglewood) 20%
Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (58, Bell Gardens) 20%
Assemblymember Roger Hernandez (48, West Covina) 20%
Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (22, South San Francisco) 20%
Assemblymember Bill Quirk (20, Hayward) 20%
Senator Cathleen Galgiani (05, Stockton) 20%
Senator Ben Hueso (40, San Diego) 20%
Senator Richard Pan (06, Sacramento) 20%
Assemblymember Richard Bloom (50,Santa Monica) 18%
Assemblymember Rob Bonta (18, Alameda) 18%
Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (80, San Diego) 18%
Assemblymember Richard Gordon (24, Menlo Park) 18%
Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer (59, Los Angeles) 18%
Assemblymember Evan Low (28, Campbell) 18%
Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (46, Sherman Oaks) 18%
Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (53, Los Angeles) 18%
Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (15, Richmond) 18%
Assemblymember Jim Wood (02, Healdsburg) 18%
Senator Ed Hernandez (22, Azusa) 18%
Senator Connie Leyva (20, Chino) 18%
Senator Mike McGuire (02, Healdsburg) 18%
Senator Holly Mitchell (30, Los Angeles) 18%
Assemblymember Toni Atkins (78, San Diego) 17%
Assemblymember David Chiu (17, San Francisco) 17%
Assemblymember Patty Lopez (39, San Fernando) 17%
Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (61, Roseville) 17%
Assemblymember Anthony Rendon (63, Lakewood) 17%
Assemblymember Mark Stone (29, Scotts Valley) 17%
Assemblymember Philip Ting (19, San Francisco) 17%
Senator Ben Allen (26, Santa Monica) 17%
Senator Jim Beall (15, San Jose) 17%
Senator Marty Block (39, San Diego) 17%
Senator Kevin De Leon (24, Los Angeles) 17%
Senator Isadore Hall (35, Compton) 17%
Senator Loni Hancock (09, Berkeley) 17%
Senator Robert Hertzberg (18, Van Nuys) 17%
Senator Jerry Hill (13, San Mateo) 17%
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (19, Santa Barbara) 17%
Senator Ricardo Lara (33, Bell Gardens) 17%
Senator Mark Leno (11, San Francisco) 17%
Senator Carol Liu (25, La Canada Flintridge) 17%
Senator Tony Mendoza (32, Artesia) 17%
Senator William Monning (17, Carmel) 17%
Senator Fran Pavley (27, Agoura Hills) 17%
Senator Bob Wieckowski (10, Fremont) 17%
Senator Lois Wolk (03, Davis) 17%
Assemblymember Luis Alejo (30, Watsonville) 13%
Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (70, Long Beach) 13%
Assemblymember Das Williams (37, Santa Barbara) 8%

2016 HJTA Legislative Report Card

Our report card is designed to help Californians gauge how their state representatives are actually performing on taxpayer-related issues both positive and negative. Positive proposals include bills that clarify the parcel tax exemption process for seniors and create additional campaign finance transparency, negative bills include a car battery tax increase, which we chose to double-weight in our scoring, and numerous bills which serve to undercut the ballot initiative process.

1 Gaines R A 100.0
4 Nielsen R A 100.0
14 Vidak R A 99.4
16 Fuller R A 97.9
36 Bates R A 96.5
28 Stone R A 95.8
34 Nguyen R A 93.4
38 Anderson R A 93.3
23 Morrell R A 91.7
37 Moorlach R B 85.5
8 Berryhill R B 84.8
29 Huff R D 60.8
12 Cannella R D 55.6
5 Galgiani D F 33.3
31 Roth D F 31.5
40 Hueso D F 31.2
17 Monning D F 27.1
22 Hernandez D F 26.7
33 Lara D F 26.7
27 Pavley D F 26.6
39 Block D F 26.1
24 De Leon D F 26.1
20 Leyva D F 25.9
15 Beall D F 25.7
25 Liu D F 25.0
10 Wieckowski D F 24.1
13 Hill D F 24.0
11 Leno D F 24.0
30 Mitchell D F 23.9
19 Jackson D F 23.1
6 Pan D F 22.9
18 Hertzberg D F 22.3
32 Mendoza D F 22.2
7 Glazer D F 21.7
3 Wolk D F 20.8
2 McGuire D F 20.7
26 Allen D F 19.1
35 Hall D F 18.8
9 Hancock D F 17.2
21 Runner R N/A 0.0

The California Chamber of Commerce has released a report of California legislators’ floor votes for the second year of the 2015-16 legislative session, focusing on priority bills to the state’s business community.

View the 2016 Vote Record

This is the 42nd vote record the CalChamber has compiled. The CalChamber publishes this report in response to numerous requests by member firms and local chambers of commerce that would like a gauge by which to measure the performance of their legislators.

To help readers assess legislators’ vote records, the charts group bills into seven areas: education, environmental regulation, health care costs, labor and employment, legal reform and protection, water supply and quality, and workers’ compensation.

Partial Picture

No vote record can tell the entire story of a legislator’s attitude and actions on issues of importance to business. To fully evaluate your legislative representative, consult the legislative journals and examine your legislator’s votes in committee and on floor issues.

You can view these via links at

Many anti-business bills were rejected by legislators in policy or fiscal committees, thus stopping proposals before they reached the floor for a vote. The vote record does not capture these votes.

Most bills in this report cover major business issues that are of concern to both small and large companies.

The CalChamber recognizes that there are many bills supported or opposed by business that are notincluded in this vote record and analysis.

A “Best Business Votes” section lists legislators according to the percentage of times they voted with the CalChamber position on the bills selected for the vote record.

This year, the vote record covers 17 votes in the Senate and 16 votes in the Assembly. Most bills in the vote record cover major business issues that are of concern to both small and large companies.

For more details on how the vote record is compiled and descriptions of the bills included, Click here.

Best Business Votes

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80% or more with CalChamber

Anderson, Joel (R) 17-0
Bates, Pat (R) 17-0
Fuller, Jean (R) 17-0
Huff, Bob (R) 17-0
Moorlach, John M.W. (R) 17-0
Nguyen, Janet (R) 17-0
Stone, Jeff (R) 17-0
Vidak, Andy (R) 17-0

Berryhill, Tom (R) 16-0
Gaines, Ted (R) 16-0
Morrell, Mike (R) 16-0
Nielsen, Jim (R) 16-0

Cannella, Anthony (R) 16-1

60%-79% with CalChamber
Galgiani, Cathleen (D) 11-6
Glazer, Steve (D) 11-6
40%-59% with CalChamber
Roth, Richard (D) 9-8
Pan, Richard (D) 8-9
Less than 40% with CalChamber
McGuire, Mike (D) 6-11
Wieckowski, Bob (D) 6-11
Hueso, Ben (D) 5-10
Liu, Carol (D) 5-11
Allen, Ben (D) 5-12
Hernandez, Ed (D) 5-12
Lara, Ricardo (D) 5-12
Leyva, Connie (D) 5-12
Mendoza, Tony (D) 5-12
Wolk, Lois (D) 5-12
Hancock, Loni (D) 4-12
Beall, Jim (D) 4-13
Block, Marty (D) 4-13
de León, Kevin (D) 4-13
Hall, Isadore (D) 4-13
Hertzberg, Bob (D) 4-13
Hill, Jerry (D) 4-13
Jackson, Hannah-Beth (D) 4-13
Leno, Mark (D) 4-13
Mitchell, Holly J. (D) 4-13
Monning, Bill (D) 4-13
Pavley, Fran (D) 4-13
Senator Sharon Runner (R) absent due to illness for votes on March 31, May 26, June 2. Deceased July 14, 2016.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Newport Mesa Tea Party — November 12, 2016

On Thursday evening, I attended a reception at Vanguard University of Southern California for former United States Attorney General John Ashcroft. While he served as the Governor of Missouri, he paid a visit to Orange County. He was kind enough to give me a half-hour of his precious time for an interview on my cable television program more than twenty-three years ago. It was a privilege to be with him again and to hear his remarks on religious liberty.

From there I visited with the Newport Mesa Tea Party. I received an e-mail earlier in the week to see if I could attend their "last" meeting. I have had the privilege to speak to this group a couple of times over the years, so attending this historic meeting seemed like a must.

The Daily Pilot provides its perspectives on the occasion. For those who were unable to attend, you can see it here at

BONUS: Our intimate Veterans Day Service was very special as we reflected on the "fire station" located at Crystal Cove (a background used below). There are also ten bunkers on the west side of Catalina Island and all provide excellent views of the ocean, as does the one at Crystal Cove. It was used to look for the Japanese Fleet, as radar was in its infancy, the Navy was out to sea, the Army was undermanned, and the military port at Long Beach was the most vulnerable of all this nation’s west coast Naval bases.

Many thanks to Dan Worthington for his presentation on this bunker and his restoration efforts on behalf of State Parks and the residents of Orange County. Dan collaborated closely with the Fort MacArthur Museum on the project and provided numerous insights on this critical World War II facility. Thanks also go to Dale Dykema, who provided the invocation, and Diane Pritchett, who led the Pledge of Allegiance.

With a beautiful day, we could see Catalina Island, where special forces, like the Green Berets and NAVY Seals were founded during World War II. Even the CIA may have been incubated on this nearby island during this era. We have so much history to commemorate and we hope to provide educational Veterans Day ceremonies in the future.

Newport-Mesa tea party chapter ends after 6 years with celebration of Trump’s election

By Luke Money

After six years of monthly meetings, discussions and debates on issues facing the community, state and nation, the Newport-Mesa Tea Party Patriots gathered for the last time on Thursday night in Costa Mesa.

The final meeting came just two days after arguably the greatest triumph for a national movement that has long battled the political establishment: the election of Donald Trump as the country’s next president.

"We pretty much accomplished our goal — we have an outsider as the president," local tea party leader and founder Tom Pollitt said Thursday. "So we feel pretty good about that."

The national tea party movement touts conservative principles such as smaller government, lower taxes and policies opposed to illegal immigration.

Pollitt told the crowd of about 60 people in the Halecrest Park clubhouse that the local tea party chapter is disbanding partly because he has decided to focus his attention elsewhere — perhaps on starting a local Christian school.

It’s possible, he said, that the group could be re-formed at some point.

"It was the tea party and the tea party movement throughout the country that made people aware that there was a problem, and it got them stirred up," Pollitt said. "The establishment was the problem, and now we’ve got somebody who is outside the establishment and we’re going to have some real changes."

Several local, state and federal politicians spoke at the final meeting, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter and Costa Mesa Councilman-elect Allan Mansoor.

The meeting was festive, with speakers and other attendees celebrating Republican Trump’s triumph over Democrat Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s presidential election.

"What we’ve got now is a great opportunity to reach out to our fellow Americans and say, ‘Give us a new chance in the Republican Party; give us a chance to show we are for working people in our country and we are first and foremost for the well-being of the United States,’" Rohrabacher said.

Peotter said the local tea party chapter "has been one of the few reliably conservative organizations in this area." He praised its members for supporting like-minded candidates.

Noting that Clinton beat Trump in Orange County, usually a Republican stronghold, he said: "How we’re going to change and win back our county is to get out there and work. So keep up the good work, even though the tea party is no longer here."

Twitter: @LukeMMoney


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Fourteen! — November 9, 2016

Last evening was one for the record books.

On the Federal level, allow me to congratulate Donald Trump and Mike Pence (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Tim Clark — April 13, 2016 april 13, 2016 john moorlach).

On the State Senate level, we held our own and remain at fourteen Republican Senators. We’re right on the cusp. If we lose one, we are in the Super-Minority.

The first piece below is from today’s OC Register website update on the Orange County State Senate races. The 37th District is entirely in Orange County. So, my victory is assured, pending the Registrar of Voters obtaining approval of the results from the Board of Supervisors. A sixteen-point lead is better than the thirteen-point spread my predecessor achieved four years ago.

The 29th Senate District is in three counties, but the Orange County portion provides a 4,000 vote lead for Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang. San Bernardino County shows a 1,500 vote spread in her favor. But, she is down 1,400 votes in Los Angeles County. Let’s hope the late absentee and provisional ballots do not change the outcome.

The second piece is from the Orange County Breeze. It provides a little more color on the local Legislative races.

The Associated Press, via KTVN Channel 2 in Reno, put out a listing of the results for all of the odd numbered Senate seats (the even number Districts are up in 2018) in the third piece below.

Republicans currently hold, until 2018, Districts 4, 8, 12, 14, 16, 28,34, 36 and 38 (9). Republican incumbents were successfully re-elected in Districts 1, 23, 37 (3).

Two open seats, previously held by Republicans, are District 21 and 29 (2). The Republican candidates appear to have prevailed. That gets us to 14!

Districts 25 and 27 had two strong Republican candidates, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, that provided hope to move the caucus total up to 15 or 16. Regretfully, this did not occur.

State Senate

29th District

Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties

527 of 527 precincts reporting

Josh Newman (D) 104,892 49.1
Ling Ling Chang (R) 108,779 50.9

37th District


569 of 569 precincts reporting

Ari Grayson (D) 115,501 42.0
John M.W. Moorlach* (R) 159,651 58.0


Ling Ling Chang barely leads Josh Newman in local state-level election results

State Senate District 29 is watched as a possible flip to enable the Democratic Party to reach a super-majority in the California State Senate. It was formerly represented by Republican Bob Huff, who is termed out.

The District sprawls across three counties: Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino.

Republican Ling Ling Chang and Democrat Josh Newman ran for the open seat.

With 98.7% (520 of 527) precincts partially reporting as of Nov. 9, 2016, at 4:41 a.m., Republican Ling Ling Chang narrowly leads Democrat Josh Newman by 1.8% — 107,922 votes to 103,999.

Newman has received 52% of the vote in the area of the District that falls in Los Angeles County.

In contrast, Chang has received 51.2% in Orange County and 53.9% in San Bernardino County.

Quirk-Silva looking to take back Assembly seat

Assembly District 65 pitted Sharon Quirk-Silva against Young Kim, who defeated Quirk-Silva two years ago.

With all precincts at least partially reporting, Quirk-Silva leads with 50.8% of the vote. Kim has 49.2%.

Other local Assembly results

Travis Allen has received 59% of the vote in District 72 and looks to be comfortably in the lead.

Matthew Harper has received 56.7% of the vote in District 74. He also looks to be declared the winner.

Other local State Senate results

With 58% of the votes, John Moorlach is well ahead of challenger Ari Grayson with 42%.

Results reported are based on information published by the California Secretary of State.

CA – State Senate – Contested

By The Associated Press

District 1 Redding

987 of 987 precincts – 100 percent

x-Ted Gaines, GOP (i) 189,464 – 64 percent

Rob Rowen, Dem 108,224 – 36 percent

District 3 Fairfield

740 of 740 precincts – 100 percent

Bill Dodd, Dem 142,766 – 59 percent

Mariko Yamada, Dem 97,441 – 41 percent

District 5 Stockton

677 of 677 precincts – 100 percent

Cathleen Galgiani, Dem (i) 105,978 – 56 percent

Alan Nakanishi, GOP 84,552 – 44 percent

District 7 Concord

647 of 647 precincts – 100 percent

x-Steve Glazer, Dem (i) 173,155 – 67 percent

Joseph Rubay, GOP 87,082 – 33 percent

District 9 Oakland

651 of 651 precincts – 100 percent

x-Nancy Skinner, Dem 138,408 – 63 percent

Sandre Swanson, Dem 82,453 – 37 percent

District 11 San Francisco

645 of 645 precincts – 100 percent

x-Scott Wiener, Dem 142,059 – 53 percent

Jane Kim, Dem 128,431 – 47 percent

District 13 Sunnyvale

605 of 605 precincts – 100 percent

x-Jerry Hill, Dem (i) 191,359 – 76 percent

Rick Ciardella, GOP 60,008 – 24 percent

District 15 Cupertino

523 of 575 precincts – 91 percent

x-Jim Beall, Dem (i) 119,696 – 64 percent

Nora Campos, Dem 68,263 – 36 percent

District 17 Santa Cruz

671 of 689 precincts – 97 percent

x-Bill Monning, Dem (i) 169,380 – 65 percent

Palmer Kain, GOP 89,709 – 35 percent

District 19 Santa Barbara

726 of 726 precincts – 100 percent

x-Hannah-Beth Jackson, Dem (i) 152,233 – 62 percent

Colin Walch, GOP 91,854 – 38 percent

District 21 Santa Clarita

570 of 570 precincts – 100 percent

Scott Wilk, GOP 108,290 – 55 percent

Johnathon Ervin, Dem 89,206 – 45 percent

District 23 San Bernardino

1,037 of 1,037 precincts – 100 percent

x-Mike Morrell, GOP (i) 126,480 – 58 percent

Ronald O’Donnell, Dem 91,571 – 42 percent

District 25 Glendale

554 of 554 precincts – 100 percent

Anthony Portantino, Dem 148,741 – 57 percent

Michael Antonovich, GOP 110,110 – 43 percent

District 27 Los Angeles

549 of 549 precincts – 100 percent

Henry Stern, Dem 149,515 – 55 percent

Steve Fazio, GOP 122,291 – 45 percent

District 29 Anaheim

527 of 527 precincts – 100 percent

Ling Ling Chang, GOP 108,779 – 51 percent

Josh Newman, Dem 104,892 – 49 percent

District 31 Riverside

344 of 344 precincts – 100 percent

x-Richard Roth, Dem (i) 97,979 – 59 percent

Richard Reed, GOP 68,092 – 41 percent

District 33 Long Beach

416 of 416 precincts – 100 percent

x-Ricardo Lara, Dem (i) 118,517 – 79 percent

Mimi Robson, Lib 31,868 – 21 percent

District 35 Los Angeles

482 of 482 precincts – 100 percent

Steven Bradford, Dem 91,599 – 54 percent

Warren Furutani, Dem 77,022 – 46 percent

District 37 Huntington Beach

569 of 569 precincts – 100 percent

x-John Moorlach, GOP (i) 159,651 – 58 percent

Ari Grayson, Dem 115,501 – 42 percent

District 39 San Diego

608 of 608 precincts – 100 percent

x-Toni Atkins, Dem 143,380 – 62 percent

John Renison, GOP 86,493 – 38 percent

AP Elections 11-09-2016 08:40


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MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Debt Matters — November 5, 2016

There is one Proposition that has really gotten under the Governor’s skin. He really hates Proposition 53 and is campaigning against it with all of his disposable resources.

The proponent, Dino Cortopassi, is also funding this ballot measure with his personal resources, hoping to leave a lasting legacy here in the state that allowed him to create his personal wealth.

For my editorial perspective on Proposition 53, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Propositions 51 and 53 — September 3, 2016 september 3, 2016 john moorlach.

Dino Cortopassi is taking on the government and the Sacramento establishment. Even local municipalities are opposed to his simple proposal. And, some editorial boards are weighing in with their opposition. Our local OC Register recommends a "yes" vote.

Earlier in the spring, this ballot measure was the topic of a Senate Governance and Finance Committee Hearing. I’m a member of this committee. Every witness, but one, the lawyer retained to draft the measure, was opposed to it.

I mentioned that many revenue bonds fail, and cited a few recent examples. I also stated that this ballot measure would be successful. Like Proposition 218 in 1996, which asked voters to approve tax increases, Proposition 53 will allow voters to approve $2 billion or more in state revenue bonds. Voters actually appreciate having more control. I would expect Proposition 53 to do well.

The Bakersfield California provides a rebuttal to its recommendation to oppose Prop. 53 with the piece below.

In March, I mentioned that the State Controller did not include the entire unfunded actuarial accrued liability for retiree medical in California’s most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (see MOORLACH UPDATE — California CAFR — March 19, 2016 march 19, 2016 john moorlach).

A few days later the OC Register mentioned this intentional multi-billion dollar exclusion in an editorial (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 — March 25, 2016 march 25, 2016 john moorlach). The editorial writer below used this statistic in his piece and gave me credit.

Remember to vote on Tuesday. For assistance in filling in your sample ballot and for an invitation to my election night party, go to MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Endorsement Roundup — November 3, 2016 november 3, 2016 john moorlach and MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Next Week — November 4, 2016 november 4, 2016 john moorlach.

P.S. You still have a couple of days to make a contribution to my campaign. Go to and click on "DONATE." Contributors of $100 or more will be specifically included on my campaign finance report. If you wish to be listed as a member of the winning team, donate today.

Image of The Bakersfield Californian logo

Vote yes on Prop. 53 and demand accountability for debt

Bruce Freeman

In a recent editorial, The Bakersfield Californian took an oppose position on Proposition 53, the measure known as “Stop Blank Checks” which will appear on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot.

The proposed measure, which only pertains to the state’s multibillion-dollar revenue bond megaprojects, would only do two things: it would require that the total cost of a project be disclosed to voters before it begins and it would require statewide voter approval.

The idea behind the measure is simple: If taxpayers have to pay, they should have a say. I strongly support Proposition 53 because consent of the governed also means the consent of the taxed.

Many are surprised to learn that some of the state’s largest, most expensive projects currently have little to no voter oversight. That means no vote by the people or the legislature, and no thorough fiscal scrutiny is required before these huge projects begin.

Proposition 53 would only apply to revenue bonds costing over $2 billion that are used to pay for state projects. Revenue bonds theoretically are paid for by “revenues” from a project. But when projects don’t generate enough revenue, taxpayers pick up the tab. One such example is the City of Stockton’s $47 million bond in 2004 for an arena. Stockton’s arena revenue shortfall contributed to its 2012 bankruptcy. Prop. 53 protects state taxpayers by adding a layer of transparency to these massive state megaprojects.

According to Wealth Daily, “Revenue bonds may offer higher risk than general obligation bonds because repayment depends on specific revenue streams rather than tax revenues, including user fees or lease payments that are vulnerable to economic trends.”

Proposition 53 would force governments to be more responsible with our money instead of letting unaccountable and unelected state bureaucrats, controlled by special interests, just run up a tab. And if the large amounts of revenue bonds still are needed? Then approval is just a voter initiative away. It is no different than what we do with general obligation bonds.

A good example of a fiscal disaster is the high-speed rail project. Although voters approved $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds with Proposition 1A in 2008, and the federal government kicked in $3.5 billion, estimates for the project keep changing, but officially now run to $64 billion. Proposition 53 would give us a say in the multibillion-dollar cost increase that could be funded with revenue bonds to make up the difference.

Sacramento politicians and unelected bureaucrats have gotten too comfortable with spending other people’s money with very little, if any, oversight. Spending at these unsustainable levels is going to have long-term consequences for us and future generations.

According to a report by Controller Betty Yee, the state now suffers “a net pension liability of $63.7 billion.” And when “claims, judgments and long-term leases” are thrown in, the debt jumps to $175.1 billion. State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, calculated “$74 billion in unfunded retiree medical” benefits will be added in the next report due later this year. Total: $224.1 billion in debt. Some say this is a conservative estimate.

According to campaign finance data from the California Secretary of State’s website, opponents funding the attack on Proposition 53 are those who stand to benefit from huge state megaprojects. It’s no surprise they oppose something that may get in the way of their profits. Contributions so far — with more to come — include: $250,000 from the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, $350,000 from the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust and $300,000 from the Laborers Pacific Southwest Regional Organizing Coalition-Issues PAC.

Proposition 53 is just common sense, especially for taxpayers. Why should the total cost of state megaprojects be hidden from taxpayers? Please vote “yes” on Proposition 53 for transparency and to hold politicians accountable when it comes to long-term state debt.

Bruce Freeman is the president of Pinnacle Advisory Services Inc.

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