MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 1909 — August 25, 2016

The Senate is processing more than 75 bills each day. We’re making good progress. There was one bill, Assembly Bill 1909, where I decided to be the only vote in opposition. Sometimes you say to yourself, "Why should I join the crowd for a ‘feel good’ bill?" In fact, I even spoke against it on the Senate Floor.

What makes it more remarkable, is that with the events that occurred in my Supervisorial District while I served in that capacity, I had every right to pile on (see MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 1328 — October 7, 2015 october 7, 2015 john moorlach). TheLos Alamitos Patch covers it in the first piece below.

The Eureka, a publication by the Hoover Institution, of Stanford University, has asked me to submit an editorial piece. The second piece below, in Real Clear Markets, provides a teaser. I would like to thank the Hoover Institution for their assistance to my office. Since assuming this position, I have driven to Palo Alto every year now (twice) to meet with members of their brain trust. It has been incredibly beneficial.


Under Fire: Will Los Alamitos, Orange County Prosecutors be Held Liable?

California Gov. Jerry Brown is considering whether or not to sign law that can prosecute prosecutors for withholding evidence, Los Alamitos

By Ashley Ludwig (Patch Staff)

LOS ALAMITOS, CA—After a string of new felony vetoes, Governor Jerry Brown today faces another. AB 1909 will cross his desk today, and the Gov. will decide whether or not to allow criminal charges to be filed against prosecutors if evidence is purposefully withheld during a trial.

Under current law, prosecutors guilty of such misconduct can be punished by a judge and then reported to the State Bar of California, which can lead to an attorney losing a license to practice law. A judge can remove a prosecutor, or the entire office, off a case.

That was the punishment Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals doled out when he found misconduct in the case against Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in the county’s history.

That ruling—which removed the entire Orange County District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting Dekraai in the penalty phase of his trial—is under appeal.

The president of the union representing Orange County prosecutors, public defenders and county counsel said today he hopes Gov. Jerry Brown declines to sign a bill opening up prosecutors to criminal charges for withholding evidence in a trial.

"Obviously, as DAs we hope he doesn’t" sign AB 1909, said Mena Guirguis, a deputy district attorney who is the interim president of the Orange County Attorneys Association. The organization as a whole voted earlier this month to oppose the legislation, but have not met to issue a statement on its recent passage, Guirguis said.

"So far, he’s had this mantra to not sign any new felonies," Guirguis said. "He’s vetoed virtually every single new felony that has come across his desk with the statement that we already have enough laws on the books and things can be punished in other ways."

"It’ll be really disappointing if this is the one he decides to sign," Guirguis said.

Orange County defense attorney Jacqueline Goodman, secretary of the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice organization, which sponsored the legislation, said the bill should not be controversial.

"Gov. Brown has rightly recognized the profound harm that has resulted from mass incarceration over the last several years, " Goodman said.

"But unlike with other felonies, if signed into law, AB 1909 would hold prosecutors accountable for intentionally withholding evidence of innocence in criminal trials, resulting in fewer wrongful convictions and less severe prison sentences.

"Unless the problem of prosecutorial misconduct is even more widespread than we realize, this new felony should have the effect of reducing the prison population — indeed by culling the innocent from that population."

Goodman added, "This should not be controversial — decent, conscientious prosecutors should be first in line to condemn the actions of the few who, by their abuse of the public trust, prevent justice, often where lives hang in the balance."

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said he voted against the bill because he thought it was overkill to make such prosecutorial misdeeds a felony.

"I just thought a felony was too severe," Moorlach said.

"Even though I can get pretty frustrated with my DA (Tony Rackauckas) I still voted against the bill," Moorlach told City News Service.

Moorlach said it was a tough vote because it can be easily politicized. Moorlach was unmoved by allegations in the so-called "snitch scandal" involving the use of jailhouse informants in Orange County.

"This is one of those bills where you don’t vote no," Moorlach said.

"But even if you look at all the recent activities in Orange County, which have been certainly newsworthy, none of them would have fallen with the scope of this bill’s reach. You wouldn’t have had any felonies or even misdemeanors. It was sort of like, ‘Let’s react to something.’ "

Guirguis said the union’s board voted 8-3 Aug. 9 to oppose the legislation. A couple of public defenders on the board voted in support of the legislation and a few defense attorneys opposed it, Guirguis said.

Guirguis said the bill would "slow down cases," because it would spur more claims of misconduct, prompting prosecutors to invoke their right against self-incrimination and to hire a lawyer to defend them.

The withholding of exculpatory evidence—known in the courts as a Brady violation—is "very rare," Guirguis said.

Goodman pointed out that existing law already provides felony punishment for peace officers who conceal material evidence.

Rackauckas "supports the measure, and it should apply to all attorneys who intentionally withhold material evidence," his chief of staff, Susan Kang Schroeder, said.

UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky favors the legislation.

"I think it is important there’s additional enforcement for a basic constitutional duty of police and prosecutors to turn over exculpatory evidence," Chemerinsky said.

City News Service Contributed to this Report

Can California Voters Make Responsible Policy?

By Carson Bruno

This November, Californians – in addition to electing or re-electing local, states, and federal office-holders – will be deciding the fate of at least seventeen statewide ballot measures (and countless local/regional ones). These measures address some major policy issues, such as the fate of California’s death penalty, adult recreational marijuana use, and pharmaceutical price controls. With so many complex and consequential issues on the ballot, the question lingering overhead is whether Californians are prepared to make such important decisions.

Next week, the Hoover Institution will release its July-August 2016 issue of Eureka. This issue explores responsibility at the polls: 1) are Propositions 51 and 53 fiscally responsible, 2) is Proposition 55 responsible budgeting, 3) is Proposition 57 a responsible step toward criminal justice reform, and 4) are Californians capable of being responsible policymakers in the polling booth?

Proposition 51 & 53: Fiscal Responsibility?: In the June 2016 primary, Californians approved 81% of the local tax and bond measures that appeared on the ballot. And this is even more impressive given that many of these measures had 55% or 2/3rd majority requirements to pass. It would appear that a) Californians are unaware of the fiscal implications of continued increasing of taxation and incurring more long-term debt or b) if they are aware, are unfazed by the long-term fiscal consequences of their actions. Proposition 51 and 53, as argued by State Senator John Moorlach in this issue of Eureka, present an opportunity for Californians to reassert fiscal restraint.

Proposition 55: Responsible Budgeting?: In the November 2012 general election, Californians approved Proposition 30, which temporarily increased personal income taxes on those making more than $250,000 and the state general sales tax. With those taxes set to expire, Proposition 55 would extend the personal income tax increases – in a sense, making a temporary tax not so temporary. While there are many arguments against (and for) Proposition 55, one hits at the core of Sacramento’s budgeting process. Given that the state’s general fund is already extremely reliant on personal income tax revenue and that these revenues are extremely sensitive to economic ups-and-downs – thanks to the income tax’s reliance on wealthy Californians – Proposition 55 doubles-down on California’s boom-and-bust budgeting.

Proposition 57: Responsible Criminal Justice Reform?: A sweeping parole reform, championed by Governor Brown, Proposition 57 would empower the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to grant non-violent felons early parole after serving the base sentencing term of one of their offenses. There are two serious issues with the way Proposition 57 is worded, however. There doesn’t appear to be any type of oversight over the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s decisions, rendering them both judge and jury. And non-violent isn’t defined in the measure, leaving it up to the Department’s discretion. While criminal justice needs re-evaluated to ensure our systems are effective and efficient in both deterring crime and also rehabilitating convicted offenders, this reform may yield more problems than it solves.

Can California Voters Make Responsible Policy?: The measures Californians are being asked to decide are complicated and serious policy questions – issues experts take lifetimes to understand. The consequences, both intended and unintended, can be huge. Couple this with the increasing volume of the measures, ballots are becoming quite overwhelming. Then you also add in the fact that voter turnout is declining and electorates are largely uninformed on non-presidential candidates and issues. All of this wouldn’t be an issue for California’s initiative system if reforming or repealing a policy passed via the ballot was easy. But the system was specifically designed to be inflexible. This raises an important question, should Californians continue to be vested with such enormous public policy decisions? Eliminating the initiative probably isn’t the best route – there are important issues that could only be passed by circumventing the Legislature. Also unwise would be allowing the Legislative to easily tamper with passed measures. An option worth exploring, though, is the re-establishment of the indirect initiative, which would alleviate some of the system’s inflexibility, while also keeping with direct democracy’s intent.

At the end of the day, though, California needs to figure out a way to ensure Californians are confident and capable of knowledgeably weighing judgement on ballot propositions.

For a more in-depth look at these topics, keep your eye out for the July-August 2016 issue of Eureka at to be released on Tuesday, August 30.

Hoover Institution research fellow Carson Bruno studies California’s political and policy landscape. Follow him on Twitter @CarsonJFBruno.

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Golden — August 24, 2016

Our Capitol office had the opportunity to fete 1976 Gold Medalist Shirley Babashoff yesterday morning. We presented her with a resolution on the Floor and held two receptions. It was an honor to recognize this Orange County girl. The Daily Pilot provides the details in the first piece below. Here is a photo of me, Shirley, and Chris Epting.

For an incredible piece of history from forty years ago, go to It will show you that the concept of doping and steroids is no where on the radar screen. But, when Shirley Babashoff confronted the matter, she was vilified by the media. Then she disappeared and blended into the landscape as a mail carrier.

Another great resource on Shirley Babashoff, besides recent news clippings, is her book, "Making Waves: My Journey to Winning Olympic Gold and Defeating the East German Doping Program." Her co-writer is Chris Epting.

The Daily Pilot also announces the Costa Mesa Historical Society’s 50th Anniversary event in the second piece below. I was a member of its Board in the early 1990s and it is good to commemorate such a wonderful milestone. If you have some time available on Sunday afternoon, please join us in the celebration.

During Monday’s Senate Floor Session, I stood up and spoke up against AB 1066, which proposes to change the overtime rules for farm workers. It passed by one vote. And the voting results are very indicative of the composition of the Senate and the leanings each member holds. The Associated Press caught the fun and it is the third piece below.

I informed my colleagues that my mother’s maiden name is De Boer (The Farmer). My mother grew up on a farm and four of her siblings would also own farms and another ran a dairy. I shared childhood memories of these farms and the dairy in Cypress (for a photo, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Growing Up In OC — December 2, 2014 december 2, 2014 john moorlach). I advised that when they see California’s smaller farmers enduring foreclosures and property auctions, to remember this day and this vote.

The fourth piece is from The Independent Institute. And it’s screaming that you need a long read. But, you’ll love the headline. The theme of Caltrans has surfaced again and it is nice to receive an affirming treatise on my many concerns. See MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Insubordination — March 18, 2016 march 18, 2016 john moorlach for a sample.

BONUS: Orange County issued a press release announcing some very good news. It was titled "Tata Pays $26 Million to Settle Lawsuit over Failed Software."

It’s a long and sad story. The settlement figure is a hoped for amount. The sad part is that so many years have been stolen from the County in its sincere efforts to build a new property tax management system.

For those looking for even more reading, here are prior UPDATEs on this subject. They would be a major portion of my all-day deposition the day after I was sworn into this position and the day before I drove up to the Capitol to start this new role.

MOORLACH UPDATE — David Sundstrom — January 17, 2011 january 17, 2012 john moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — BOS Votes — June 22, 2011 june 22, 2011 john moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — November 2, 2012 november 2, 2012 john moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — PTMS — February 12, 2013 february 12, 2013 john moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Grand Jury Season — June 26, 2013 june 26, 2013 john moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Fighting/Leading — July 1, 2013 july 1, 2013 john moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — I-405 Hearing — July 24, 2013 july 24, 2013 john moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Tata Litigation — September 17, 2013 september 17, 2013 john moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Mahesh Patel — February 13, 2014 february 13, 2014 john moorlach

DOUBLE BONUS: Today’s OC Register has the following front-page, top-of-the-fold headline, "County to get first emergency centers for psych patients — Facilities expected to fill dire need for adequate care and lift some burden off hospital ERs." This is a wonderful headline with which to conclude this year’s first and very successful Session for me.

Political Landscape:

Moorlach helps honor ’70s Olympian

State Sens. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) and Janet Nguyen (R-Santa Ana) honored 1970s Olympic medalist Shirley Babashoff with a resolution on the Senate floor recognizing her accomplishments and community involvement.

Babashoff won eight medals, two of them gold, in swimming at the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games. She made headlines in 1976 when she suggested that East German swimmers were using performance-enhancing drugs — suspicions that were later proven correct.

She now works as a mail carrier in Huntington Beach.

"I am so proud to honor an Olympic athlete of her caliber," Moorlach said in a statement. "Shirley possessed the skill and determination to succeed in the Olympics and now displays the same spirit as she serves her community."

Costa Mesa Historical Society to present adobe celebration

The Costa Mesa Historical Society invites the public to Early California Days, an event that will celebrate 50 years of restoration and preservation of the Diego Sepulveda Adobe at Estancia Park.

Sunday’s event will include tours, activities and a keynote speech by state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa).

Early California Days will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. at Estancia Park, 1900 Adams Ave. Admission is free.

For more information, visit

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, urged lawmakers to reject a bill to pay farm workers overtime after working eight-hours in a day, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. The Senate approved AB 1066 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and sent it to the Assembly. Rich PedroncelliAP Photo

Caltrans Wins Golden Fleece Award for Its $10 Billion Highway Robbery

By Lawrence J. McQuillan and Hayeon Carol Park

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has won the Independent Institute’s second California Golden Fleece Award, given out quarterly to state or local agencies or government projects that swindle taxpayers or break the public trust.

With primary responsibility for highway maintenance projects in California, the irresponsible Caltrans has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and even lied to lawmakers to cover its tracks.

Caltrans’s history of wasting taxpayer money, while at the same time demanding more funding, justifies drastically scaling back the agency and transferring all highway and bridge maintenance to private contractors who submit winning competitive bids. This change should accompany broader reforms to modernize California’s highways, such as privatizing the public highways and bridges, which would stimulate new investment; adopting systems that adequately fund road repairs while also reducing traffic congestion and pollution; and preparing for the long-term switch to electric vehicles.

California has a unique opportunity to lead the nation in road transportation innovation, but unless bold steps are taken to scale back Caltrans, progress will be fleeting at best.


Seventy-five years ago the Arroyo Seco Parkway was opened, becoming the first urban freeway in California and in the United States. In 1940, this parkway was the future, transporting motorists from Pasadena to Los Angeles without a stop sign in 12 minutes, rather than the previous norm of 27 minutes. But today, California’s once futuristic highway network has become outdated, with countless operational and safety problems in need of urgent care.

California drivers travel about 330 billion vehicle miles each year on California roads, more than drivers in Florida and New York combined. More than 34 million motor vehicles are registered in California, about 40 percent more than in second-place Texas. And nearly 26 million residents are licensed by the State of California, roughly 9 million more than the next highest state, Texas. This tremendous volume is taking a heavy toll on California’s aging highways and bridges.

Most of California’s 50,000 highway-lane miles and 13,000 bridges are more than 50 years old and desperately need maintenance or modifications. California has the second-worst urban highway pavement conditions in the nation. California has nearly 3,000 structurally deficient bridges needing repair, more than any state. The American Society of Civil Engineers concluded that 68 percent of California’s roads are in “poor” or “mediocre” condition, with 54 of the state’s 58 counties having an average pavement rating of “poor” or “at risk.” Much of this deterioration occurred in the past six years.

Deficient roads cost California motorists $44 billion annually in additional vehicle operating costs, congestion-related delays, and traffic accidents. California has the fifth-worst urban highway traffic congestion in the country. Its freeways and bridges are due for extensive repairs, but the backbone of the transportation infrastructure budget, the gasoline tax, has lagged far behind the needs.

Against this backdrop of poor road quality, growing maintenance needs, and declining revenue to pay for repairs, came a scathing report in March 2016 by California State Auditor Elaine Howle, criticizing Caltrans’s maintenance division for poor cost controls, lack of financial planning, inefficient resource allocation, and inability to track its responses to service requests.

Caltrans’s Lies and Deceit

The state auditor found that Caltrans lied to California legislators for seven years about implementing the results of a 2009 efficiency study. According to the audit, Caltrans’s maintenance division “never implemented a budget model that it paid $250,000 to develop,” although it fraudulently “reported to the legislature that it is using the model to allocate funding to its districts.”

The sophisticated budget model, which was created with help from a consultant, would have allocated maintenance funds based on which geographic areas were judged to most be in need of repairs, based on technical criteria and assessments of how existing resources could be used to help fix roads more efficiently.

Regarding Caltrans’s lies, California State Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) said in a press release: “This audit reinforces the fact that our bad roads are not a result of a lack of funding. They’re a result of a lack of competence at Caltrans.” He continued: “We don’t need to raise gas taxes to fix our roads. We need to stop letting Caltrans waste the road money it already has and then lie about how that money is being used.”

California Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Compton) also issued a blistering rebuke. “Caltrans’ response to the report was woefully inadequate,” he said. “Caltrans is comfortable misrepresenting facts before the legislature, being incompetent in its strategic planning, and just downright neglectful of its overall responsibilities.”

Caltrans’s Poor Cost Controls, Golfing onthe Job

The state auditor found that Caltrans’s maintenance division “has weak cost controls over field maintenance work orders, which creates opportunities for fraud, waste, and abuse. Specifically, our review of work orders found limited evidence to support whether the costs and resources used were reasonable and appropriate.” The audit found Caltrans often does not review the cost of projects before or after completion: “No supporting documentation is maintained for work order costs such as labor, equipment, and materials used to complete field maintenance work.”

Multiple sources also report that Caltrans is overstaffed by between 3,300 and 3,500 employees, at a cost of a half billion dollars a year. One Caltrans employee was found to have golfed 55 days on the job, bragging to co-workers that he golfed “as much as possible.” In earlier incidents, the state auditor found:

A supervisor neglected his duty to supervise two technicians, which facilitated the technicians being paid for work they did not perform . . . One of the technicians . . . falsified concrete pile testing data for at least three transportation projects. A subsequent review by Caltrans identified eight additional incidents of data falsification. The supervisor also misappropriated Caltrans property with assistance from the technicians and other subordinate employees.

The falsified tests raise serious safety concerns. More generally, “an internal audit released in 2013 found that some maintenance staff entered erroneous time sheets into the system, including time sheets that exceeded available leave balances and time sheets showing total numbers of hours worked that did not match the employees’ work schedules.” These abuses and inefficiencies by Caltrans’s employees in planning, budgeting, and oversight have driven maintenance costs sky high.

California has the nation’s second-highest road-maintenance costs per mile at nearly $103,000. California’s total disbursements of $501,000 per mile are the fifth highest nationally. A 2011 state audit found:

62 percent of the projects that completed construction in Fiscal Years 2007–08 through 2009–10 had support costs that exceeded their respective budgets. These overruns totaled more than $305 million of the $1.4 billion in total support cost expenditures for these projects that completed construction during these fiscal years. Budget overruns can deprive other projects of necessary funding, potentially causing projects to be delayed.

The 2016 audit found the maintenance division:

has based funding allocations to the 12 Caltrans districts on a simple average of historical spending rather than using level of maintenance performance (service scores) or other information about maintenance need, despite reporting to the legislature that it was using a more sophisticated method.

Margarita Fernandez, chief of public affairs with the California State Auditor, told Capital Public Radio: “The legislature [should] require the maintenance division to implement a business model for field maintenance that takes into account these key indicators to identify the maintenance needs—like traffic volume and climate, for example.”

As noted above, Caltrans paid $250,000 for such a business model, but never used it. As a result, some districts with a high proportion of the state’s traffic volume, receive a disproportionally low amount of funding. The 2016 audit, for example, found that Los Angeles and Oakland handle 43 percent of the state’s traffic, yet the two areas receive only 27 percent of the maintenance program’s funding—allocations far out of alignment with standard indicators of need. Using historical averages to allocate money results in necessary projects being scrapped in some districts, while nice-to-have projects are completed elsewhere.

“The state auditor’s report raises more disturbing questions about the use of existing transportation tax dollars,” said California State Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel). “With some in Sacramento talking about raising taxes to repair our roads and bridges, lawmakers should first address the use of existing resources. Simply giving Caltrans more money will not change the status quo. We owe it to taxpayers to reform Caltrans in a way that ensures needed maintenance work is actually performed.”

Despite Caltrans’s mismanagement of funds, Director Malcolm Dougherty argues for more money for the department.

Asleep at the Wheel: Caltrans’s Poor Response to Service Requests, Backlog of Projects

Caltrans is a gigantic government department. It has about 19,000 employees; roughly one-quarter of whom work at Caltrans’s Sacramento headquarters. It has an annual budget exceeding $10 billion. Despite its enormous size, Caltrans does not effectively manage the service requests they receive from the public, and it cannot demonstrate that it is performing promptly the requested maintenance work.

The March 2016 state audit reported that a review of three Caltrans’s districts (of 12 districts) during the past five fiscal years found that Caltrans failed to respond to thousands of public service requests for months. Specifically, data indicate that more than 30,000 service requests received by the three districts remained unresolved for more than 90 days.

Also, Caltrans spends billions of dollars statewide on maintenance, yet it has a growing backlog of work. Since 2011, the number of highway lane miles in need of maintenance has increased from 11,053 miles to 15,272 miles, according to the audit.

“We estimate that the state has ongoing highway repair needs of about $3.6 billion annually, as well as an existing backlog of needed repairs totaling roughly $12 billion,” the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) concluded in May 2016. “This is significantly higher than can be addressed through the existing funding of about $1.6 billion annually for these purposes.” Immediate needs are even greater. The LAO estimated the state would need to spend roughly $5.5 billion for highway repair in Fiscal Year 2016-17. State government persistently underfunds highway maintenance, and changes do not appear imminent.

In the face of growing repair needs, California’s transportation infrastructure revenue continues to decline. California drivers pay 63.79 cents per gallon of gasoline for federal, state, and local taxes. These taxes are regressive, hurting low-income people most.

Caltrans estimates that California drivers pay, on average, about $368 per year in gas taxes. But despite having the fifth highest state gasoline tax rates in the country and a growing state population, California’s gas tax revenue declined from $2.87 billion in 2003 to $2.62 billion in 2013. The biggest driver of this fall in revenue is the increasing popularity of fuel-efficient and alternative-energy vehicles, a trend which has resulted in California drivers consuming less gasoline per mile driven than previously, and thus paying less gas taxes per mile driven. Highways now suffer more wear and tear, but fewer maintenance dollars are available.

Although this problem applies nationally, the situation is especially critical in California, where Governor Jerry Brown has called for at least 1.5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025. The impact of this transition on who shoulders the burden of the gas tax is worth noting. The typical electric-vehicle owner is wealthier than the typical traditional automobile owner. For example, the average household income for a buyer of a gas-powered Ford Focus is $77,000 a year, whereas the buyer of the electric model of the Ford Focus earns an average annual income of $199,000. For the Fiat 500, average income is $73,000 for the conventional vehicle, and $145,000 for the electric version. As a result, the burden of California’s archaic infrastructure funding model falls increasingly on low-to-middle income people driving gas-powered vehicles.

In conclusion, Senator Moorlach said: “Caltrans is one of the worst managed, most inefficient government agencies in the nation. Just look at the metrics. Californians pay among the highest gas taxes and the fifth-highest per-mile road maintenance, yet we also have the nation’s fifth worst roads. Those are clear signs that Caltrans is dysfunctional and wasting taxpayer money. If Caltrans was a private company, it would have been out of business long ago.”

Similarly, Assemblymember Gipson said: “I am thoroughly disappointed in Caltrans’ historic and continuous failure to maintain our state’s roads and highways, and even more disturbed to learn that the department has misrepresented information before the legislature.” Caltrans has been asleep at the wheel.

The Pathologies of Government:A Lesson in Government “Ownership” and Under-Maintenance

Why do governments persistently underfund asset maintenance? When a government “owns” an asset, such as a road, bridge, or school, in effect nobody owns it. No person collects profits resulting from the efficient operation of the asset. And no person can sell their share in the asset. When everybody owns something, nobody owns something, and problems arise.

When assets are “owned” by a government, the absence of marketability and a profit motive results in mispricing of the asset or the asset’s services, mispricing in the sense that prices do not reflect true scarcity. With roads, for example, the lack of monetary prices for road access results in severe traffic congestion, pollution, overuse, deterioration, and fatalities.

Also, with government ownership, nobody is the “residual claimant” to any profits; thus, nobody has a direct incentive to make sure the asset is maintained properly to maximize appropriable profits. As a result, roads are riddled with potholes, bridges crumble, classrooms have mold and falling ceilings, and public housing is in disrepair. Also, without a profit motive, the repairs that are made are seldom performed at minimum cost.

A politician or bureaucrat does not have a claim to the profits arising from sound asset management, therefore, he or she does not have a direct incentive to make sure the asset is maintained properly. To government authorities, maintenance is viewed generally as a pure cost without a corresponding increase in future revenues they can personally capture. To see the impact of government ownership, one only needs to compare the poor quality of government-owned roads in Los Angeles or San Francisco to the high quality privately owned roads at Disneyland or Universal Studios in California.

To a politician, money spent on maintenance is money not available to start new government programs or expand existing government programs. A politician can get more votes and campaign contributions by starting a new program that concentrates benefits among a few people than by repairing a bridge that confers benefits to a dispersed group of people, many of whom might not live in the politician’s state or district. For these reasons, chronic under-maintenance is the rule for the nation’s government-owned assets, especially its roads, bridges, and highways.

The inability of the public to sell their “share” in government-owned assets also prevents the assets from being owned by people who best understand the industry and have the technical knowledge to operate and repair the asset. Today, elected politicians and unelected bureaucrats control California’s transportation network, rather than skilled and knowledgeable engineers, entrepreneurs, and innovators.

The Recommendations

Serious problems with California’s highway network—poor pavement, traffic congestion, high maintenance costs, a growing backlog of repairs, and a deceitful, mismanaged Department of Transportation—warrant switching to a modern, futuristic, approach to transportation. The process involves three steps: (1) auction off public highways and bridges to private companies and use the proceeds to pay down state debt, (2) use competitive bidding among private contractors for all highway repair and new construction, and (3) transition to mileage-based user fees to pay for maintenance and construction, efficiently pricing highway access to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. Ideally, all three should be adopted, but each could be implemented separately. These transformative suggestions, and more, are explored in the book Street Smart: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads.

First, California’s public highways and bridges should be auctioned off to private companies and the proceeds used to pay down state debt. Privatization has been used successfully in other countries to stimulate investment in roadways. Highway 407 in Ontario, Canada, was sold to a partnership of companies in Canada and Spain. Brazil auctioned off operating rights for five highways using long-term contracts (not an outright sale). Tolls are used to collect revenue. Ivepar, the company that won a 30-year lease for the fifth auctioned highway, planned to invest 8 billion reais to modernize the road and double the number of lanes in five years.

Sacyr has won three highway contracts in Colombia, planning to invest about $2.5 billion. The third contract calls for Sacyr to build a 50-mile highway in four years, complete with intersections, tunnels, bridges, culverts, and viaducts. They agreed to operate the highway for 25 years, and provide traffic monitoring services, emergency response, law enforcement, tow trucks, a mobile workshop, and ambulances.

Sacyr also has a highway lease agreement in Peru and six in Chile, which has auctioned rights to operate roads to entrepreneurs, who use tolls to recoup their investments. The Pan-American Highway is an example.

Second, highway owners should use competitive bidding among private contractors to perform all highway repairs and new construction. Caltrans is not essential to efficient road repairs; in fact, it has become counterproductive. Where rapid privatization is not feasible, Caltrans’s construction and maintenance duties should be replaced by competitive bids from private contractors, some of whom have built reputations for performing “miraculous” repairs. For example, C.C. Myers finished repairing the Interstate 580 MacArthur Maze in Oakland ahead of schedule and at cost, as well as the “Fix I-5” project in Sacramento.

Competition among private contractors will drive down the cost of highway maintenance, minimize bureaucratic bloat, and maximize accountability. In recognition of these advantages, Senator Moorlach introduced Senate Bill (SB) 1141 in February 2016 to create a five-year pilot program that would allow two California counties to control highway maintenance funds now handled by Caltrans.

Third, California should transition to mileage-based user fees to pay for road repairs and new construction, efficiently pricing highway access to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. Road usage charges are the fair method to pay for roads: the most equitable pricing system for any good or service is for people to “pay for what they use.”

The California legislature, recognizing problems with the state’s current approach, has approved a pilot program to explore use of a vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) fee. In September 2014, Governor Brown signed into law SB 1077, which requires California to design and implement a statewide pilot program to study a road charge model. The legislature instructed Caltrans and other transportation agencies to set up a program, which is expected to last nine months. A report is due to the legislature by June 2017. Colorado, Oregon, and Washington are studying similar pilot programs. Internationally, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic have implemented forms of VMT fees.

The California Road Charge Pilot Program will test the VMT fee with 5,000 volunteers. It began in July 2016. The drivers will allow the state to measure how many miles they have traveled to calculate payment. The automated road usage charge will collect mileage data from participating vehicles, and a mileage reporting device selected by the motorist will interface with the vehicle and be paired with software to send mileage totals to the chosen account manager.

Under the new system, users will pay a fee that is dependent solely on miles traveled. These charges can be either a flat fee (a fixed number of cents per mile, regardless of where or when the trip occurs) or a variable fee based on time of travel, congestion levels on a road, type of road, type and weight of vehicle, vehicle emission levels, or the owner’s ability to pay.

There are many benefits of switching to a mileage-based user fee. First, it could raise substantial revenue and allow for revenue growth over time, even with the switch to electric vehicles. According to a national study by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a mileage fee of 1.3 cents per mile would raise the same amount of revenue as the current gas tax. Second, the technology used to assess the mileage fee could also be used for congestion pricing in ways that help manage traffic flows thereby reducing pollution. Since electric-vehicle users would pay the same fee per mile traveled, they would likely reduce their travel consumption. And price competition in general among rival private roadway owners would benefit customers. Third, a VMT fee eliminates the need for states to impose additional taxes on advanced-technology vehicles at the time of purchase in lieu of gas taxes.

The VMT proposal, however, is not without concerns. Some motorists are worried that the VMT approach could be an invasion of privacy when location information is collected, viewing it as spying by “Big Brother” or the “Nanny State.” To mitigate these concerns, VMT pilot programs across the country have explored options to protect the privacy of participants.

Decades ago, the only method for measuring miles driven was odometer readings, and odometers remain a potential source of data to implement mileage-based user fees. Technology, however, has made the reality of VMT fees more advanced. For example, a pilot program in Oregon from November 2012 through March 2013 implemented a road usage charge while accommodating the privacy concerns of payers, and providing participants with options regarding reporting mechanisms. Oregon’s pilot study offered plans with different technology options and payment methods depending on the drivers’ privacy preferences. Drivers had the choice to report miles using a smartphone, a global-positioning-system(GPS) device, or a simple reporting device with no GPS technology; or, they could opt out of using technology altogether by paying a flat rate in lieu of a per-mile fee. But drivers who chose to report their miles using a smartphone or a GPS were not disclosing their exact locations and travel times.

In-vehicle devices that measure miles driven can be programmed to collect and report only limited geographic data regarding miles driven per region or zone, as opposed to exact locations. Furthermore, a common data-management standard calls for data to be destroyed 30 days after it is required for payment processing or dispute resolution. According to Caltrans’s website: “The pilot [program] will give participants several options for reporting mileage, including those which do not require technology in the vehicle or mileage reporting.”

Concerns about government collection of data related to VMT fees is another important reason to privatize highways. After all, people already live with private companies collecting personal data: cell phone companies know who you call or text, what you text, when you called or texted, and roughly where you were during a call, based on pings from cell towers.

Technological advances can satisfy privacy concerns and provide a superior method of paying for highways, paying for associated highway law enforcement, and reducing pollution associated with traffic congestion. (This would remain a benefit even if all vehicles were electric, because the electricity must be generated somewhere with accompanying emissions.) Depending on the chosen option, CAP notedthat a road usage charge could be implemented in each state without expensive retrofitting of current vehicles or upgrades to transportation infrastructure.

Seventy-five years after the nation’s first urban highway opened in California, it is time for Californians to adopt a modern transportation network. Private ownership, competitive bids on repair contracts, and road usage fees would revolutionize the state’s transportation network and fix its crumbling highways and bridges. Without intention, Caltrans’s incompetence is helping to drive a badly needed conversation about the Golden State’s highways of tomorrow.


Written by Lawrence J. McQuillan, PhD, and Hayeon Carol Park, MA. Kelly R. Lester and Joshua Tam provided research support.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — 300 Down, 600 To Go — August 20, 2016

Session concludes on August 31st. So the last half of this month has been very, very busy. The Senate is trying to vote on at least 50 bills per day, with 300 processed this week. My briefing packets are usually 1,500 pages for every morning’s Floor Session, the equivalent of 3 reams of photocopy paper. The volume has been immense. We have 300 more Assembly Bills to process.

Simultaneously, as bills get voted on in the Assembly, many are sent back to us to vote on the amendments. I’ve been told to expect 300 of them. One is described as the subject of the second piece below. Consequently, the next eight weekdays will be even busier.

In the middle of all this activity, like a Phoenix, another possible road repair bill arises. And, it does just about nothing to improve Caltrans and how it addresses the fiscal stewardship of building and maintaining the state’s roads. It just asks for more money. The proposal was introduced on Thursday, and The Bond Buyer provides its perspective in the first piece below (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Seven Solutions for Caltrans — August 15, 2016 august 15, 2016 john moorlach).

Many of my fellow Senators invite their colleagues to be co-authors on their bills. I did this with SB 813. The Highland Community News provides the details in the second piece below.

New Taxes, Fees Floated For California Roads

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Orange County, said he doesn’t want to see Californians taxed further and would prefer an overhaul of the state’s spending practices.

PHOENIX — Two California state lawmakers released a proposal they say would generate $7.4 billion annually for transportation, with $2.5 billion going directly to cities and counties.

The package, introduced by Sen. Jim Beall, a San Jose Democrat, and Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, would raise the new revenues with a combination of tax increases and fees designed to tackle California’s significantly underfunded transportation system. In a June 2016 proclamation convening an ongoing legislative special session, Gov. Jerry Brown cited $5.7 billion of annual unfunded road infrastructure repair requirements. Lawmakers have held hearings and introduced some legislation during that session, but taken little concrete action.

"This proposal represents, for the first time, a unified effort by the Assembly and Senate Democratic Caucuses to address the $78 billion unmet funding need for local streets and roads and $56 billion backlog to the state’s transportation infrastructure," the League of California Cities said in a release.

Among the new revenues would be a 17 cent per gallon increase to the gasoline excise tax, a 30 cent per gallon increase to the diesel excise tax, and a zero emission vehicle registration fee of $165 per year starting in the second year. The bill also contains a provision that would index all fees and taxes, including current gas taxes, for inflation every three years.

It contains some measures that Republicans opposing previous Democratic efforts to increase taxes have asked for in the past, including steps designed to improve accountability in spending and a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the use of transportation revenues for non-transportation spending.

But Sen. John Moorlach, R-Orange County, remained critical of the proposal and said lawmakers shouldn’t be looking to further tax Californians in an effort to throw money at the problem.

"The state is diagnosing what ails it, and their response is ‘we need more money,’" Moorlach told The Bond Buyer. "It’s just crazy."

Moorlach said that Californians are already among the most taxed Americans, and pointed the finger mainly at the California Department of Transportation, which he called "bloated and inefficient."

"We need to communicate that we are being efficient with our money," Moorlach said. "I’m just embarrassed for my colleagues that they would dare say we need to raise taxes."

While local groups including the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties have said repeatedly that the legislature needs to take action to responsibly fund the state’s infrastructure, Moorlachexpressed doubt that lawmakers would hold a vote on this proposal or any other before the Aug. 31 legislative deadline. While the special session can remain active after the close of the regular session, Moorlach said it was more likely that votes on a transportation measure would get pushed until next year.

A report issued this week by The Road Information Program found that 37% of California’s major roads are in poor condition.

“Justice for Victims Act” Passes Assembly

SB 813 Eliminates Statute of Limitations for Rape in California

SACRAMENTO – The California State Assembly today passed important bipartisan legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that would eliminate the statute of limitations for rape and related crimes in California. SB 813 aims to ensure justice for victims and survivors of felony sexual offenses by allowing the indefinite criminal prosecution of rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, oral copulation, and sexual penetration.

Current California law generally limits the prosecution of a felony sexual offense to only 10 years after the offense is committed, unless DNA evidence is found which then offers a victim additional time. According to the United States Department of Justice, only two in 100 rapists will be convicted of a felony and spend any time in prison. The other 98 percent will never be punished for their crime.

“Ever since I first introduced SB 813 earlier this year, I have spoken to countless survivors of rape and sexual assault that have stepped forward and told me that this bill offers them hope that future rape victims will have the opportunity to seek justice in a court of law, even many years after the crime was originally committed,” Senator Leyva said. “At its core, SB 813 would help ensure that rapists and sexual predators do not evade legal consequences simply because the statute of limitations has expired. I thank my Assembly colleagues for supporting the ‘Justice for Victims Act’ and look forward to this vital bill moving forward as it approaches its final legislative hurdle in the Senate in the coming days before hopefully moving on to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.”

Principal coauthors Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), Assemblymember Autumn R. Burke (D-Inglewood), Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson) and Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Carpinteria)—as well as coauthors Senator Joel Anderson (R-Alpine), Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte), Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego), Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield), Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), Senator Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside), Assemblymember Rocky J. Chávez (R-Oceanside) and Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale)—have signed on in support of SB 813.

The “Justice for Victims Act” is co-sponsored by San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos and the California Women’s Law Center (CWLC) and supported by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, California District Attorneys Association, California Police Chiefs Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, Crime Victims United of California, End Rape SOL, among others.

Following the Assembly’s approval of SB 813 earlier today, the “Justice for Victims Act” now advances to the Senate Floor for a final concurrence vote before proceeding to the Governor for consideration.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1265 — August 18, 2016

It has been more than 22 years since I’ve enjoyed doing estate planning. But, allow me to share a few thoughts.

Living trusts are utilized to avoid probate and, in many cases, to set up a marital deduction trust. This is done when the estate exceeds $600,000 in net value.

Not to get into the weeds, but state law in this area was not conforming to the Federal law that the Internal Revenue Service was following in this area. So, SB 1265 is a conformity bill. The bill is ministerial in nature and non-confrontational, so it went through the Legislature mostly on consent.

SB 1265 was signed by the Governor yesterday. So, the number of my signed bills for this year just went up 100 percent. For someone in the minority party, we’re having a good year.

The Governor’s office issued a press release that was picked up by the Highland Community News below. Immediately below, we’ve also done some bragging in our press release that went out this morning.

Governor Brown Signs Moorlach ‘Marital Deduction Trusts’ Bill

SB 1265 Will Support and Ease Burden on Surviving Spouses
(Sacramento) – On Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senator John Moorlach’s Senate Bill 1265 into law. The bill provides a much needed update to the California Probate Code and synchronizes it with the federal tax law. This change will add clarity and flexibility to the probate process, easing the burden on a surviving spouse when dealing with complex tax issues relative to the estate.

“I thank the Governor for signing my bill into law,” said Senator Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa). “One of my top priorities is creating a better future for California families. SB 1265 removes unnecessary red tape for surviving spouses as they attempt to settle an estate during a sensitive time in their life."

Senate Bill 1265 is the second bill authored by Moorlach to be signed by the Governor.SB 1265 greatly simplifies current law, enhancing access to the marital deduction trust for surviving spouses.

For more information on SB 1265, CLICK HERE.

Governor Brown Signs Legislation

SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that he has signed the following bills:

AB 1355 by Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) – Gaming: Tribal Nation Grant Fund.

AB 1432 by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) – Monterey Bay and the Bays of San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun: pilotage rates: technology surcharge.

AB 1557 by Assemblymember Devon J. Mathis (R-Visalia) – School facilities: use by nonprofit youth organizations: recreational youth sports leagues.

AB 1563 by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) – Victim’s compensation: claims: appeal.

AB 1660 by Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) – Interscholastic athletics: California Interscholastic Federation: report.

AB 1692 by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) – County employees’ retirement: Contra Costa County.

AB 1702 by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) – Juveniles: dependent children: reunification services.

AB 1750 by Assemblymember Bill Dodd (D-Napa) – Real property transactions: definitions.

AB 1867 by Assemblymember Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga) – Evidence: judicial notice: official records of conviction.

AB 1918 by Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) – Teacher credentialing: temporary certificates.

AB 2010 by Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) – Voter’s pamphlet: electronic candidate statement.

AB 2116 by Assemblymember James M. Gallagher (R-Plumas Lake) – School bonds: projections of assessed property valuations.

AB 2128 by Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) – Marriage.

AB 2135 by Assemblymember Marc B. Levine (D-Marin County) – Alcoholic beverages: revenue sharing.

AB 2159 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) – Evidence: immigration status.

AB 2217 by Assemblymember David Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach) – Notary public: service fees.

AB 2376 by the Committee on Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security – County employees’ retirement: Los Angeles County.

AB 2416 by Assemblymember Scott T. Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) – Escrow agent rating service.

AB 2457 by Assemblymember Richard H. Bloom (D-Santa Monica) – Autopsy: electronic image systems.

AB 2710 by Assemblymember Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) – Insurance: California Insurance Guarantee Association: premium charges.

AB 2755 by Assemblymember James M. Gallagher (R-Plumas Lake) – Agriculture: bees: civil remedies.

AB 2874 by Assemblymember Beth Gaines (R-El Dorado Hills) – Groundwater sustainability agencies: fees.

SB 1265 by Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) – Marital deduction trusts.

For full text of the bills, visit:

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MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 1217 — August 16, 2016

Yesterday, the first of many days of full Floor Sessions to complete votes on bills by August 31st, AB 2611 was the most controversial bill (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Only Opposition Vote — August 11, 2016 august 11, 2016 john moorlach). As was acknowledged in the article below, this is a very sensitive subject matter, and both sides of the aisle made compelling and respectful arguments supporting and opposing the bill. In the end, I believe it is a flawed bill.

The second most controversial bill was AB 1217 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Butt Out — June 13, 2015 june 13, 2015 john moorlach for its earlier iteration). I opposed it on the Floor and on the first vote it only garnered 19 votes. Since it did not succeed, it was "moved to call." This allowed the author and his Senate Floor Manager (Jockey) to lobby my colleagues for a few hours before garnering the necessary votes to get over 20 the next time it was voted on. As they say, "At least I tried."

Let’s see how much more fun the next twelve days of potential Sessions bring.

Should police body camera footage be released? Bill aims to let slain officers’ families decide

By Liam Dillon

Video or audio footage showing the deaths of police officers in California will not be made public unless their immediate family agrees to release it should a bill passed Monday by the state Senate become law.

Lawmakers in support of AB 2611 by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) said the measure protects the families of police officers from having to relive when their loved ones were killed.

“Body cameras are necessary to not only protect potential victims but to also protect the men and women wearing them,” said Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton). “No one should have to worry about an audio or video recording of graphic sounds or morbid images be open to the public to be viewed over and over again, nor should the surviving families of any officers.”

Senators engaged in lengthy debate about the bill on the floor, with opponents arguing that the measure would create a special exemption for police officer families and could result in unforeseen circumstances where there was overriding public interest in the release of such footage, but law enforcement agencies would be unable to disclose it.

Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) said the bill could harm efforts to build trust between the public and law enforcement.

“Transparency in public safety and law enforcement is so lacking,” Moorlach said. “The issues that it creates actually I believe hurts our public safety officials because we’re saying, ‘No, you can’t have this,’ or ‘You can’t see that,’ or ‘You don’t get this video.’ And so we see the public extremely frustrated. Now we’re going to create this bill, another barrier that just raises angst among our constituents.”

The bill passed with a slim majority of 23 senators in favor, with many abstaining. Multiple senators both for and against the bill noted the sensitivity of measures related to the death of law enforcement officers.

Low’s bill is the most narrow in the raft of bills introduced this year to deal with the difficult questions of privacy and transparency as police departments across the state outfit their officers with body cameras. The rest of the measures, including one that would have allowed for public disclosure when officers were accused of excessive force, have failed.

About 10 law enforcement officers have died annually in the line of duty in California since 1980, according to statistics from the state Department of Justice and National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Roughly half of those deaths were accidental.

California police departments began adopting body cameras in earnest in early 2015, and Low’s office said it was unaware of any department that has released footage of an officer’s death in response to a public records request.

But body cameras are beginning to capture such incidents.

Last month, San Diego Police Officer Jonathan De Guzman was shot and killed and a second officer was wounded after approaching a pedestrian during a nighttime patrol. The officers didn’t turn on their body cameras before the incident, though the injured officer caught the aftermath on his camera.

Brian Marvel, the president of the San Diego Police Officers Assn., said he supported Low’s bill. Public disclosure of the video of De Guzman’s death would unnecessarily harm his family, Marvel said.

“I couldn’t fathom right now an opportunity where the footage of an officer being murdered should be released,” he said in an interview.

Still, few police departments in California — including the Los Angeles Police Department — release any body camera footage outside of a courtroom because of the state’s already strict laws blocking most law enforcement information from becoming public through open records requests.

San Diego has the largest coordinated effort in the state to release body camera footage, where Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis says her office will make public selected body camera video from officer-involved shootings. But the policy doesn’t call for disclosure in incidents where an officer was killed. A spokesman for Dumanis confirmed that the district attorney has no plans to release footage from De Guzman’s killing.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has called Low’s bill unnecessary, saying the state’s public records law already ensures that most recordings of a police officer’s death would never be released.

“This bill provides privacy protections to peace officers which are greater than those provided to the general public, and moreover implies that the privacy interest of a peace officer’s family outweighs public interest in the events of an officer’s death,” a bill analysis from Brown’s Department of Finance said.

Before the bill heads to Brown’s desk, it has to return to the Assembly for a vote after minor changes were made in the Senate. In May, the Assembly passed an earlier version 76 to 0.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Seven Solutions for Caltrans — August 15, 2016

I’m currently reading "Adolf Sutro — A Biography," by Robert E. Stewart, Jr. and M. F. Stewart (Howell-North, Copyright 1962).

It includes a fun account by Mark Twain, "Traveling With Adolph Sutro," which I found online as a reprint in The Works of Mark Twain; Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 1 1851-1864, (Univ. of California Press, 1979), pp. 418-19. I’ve edited it down a little, and I should preface it by saying that photos of Adolph Sutro show a large forehead (a way of saying he was partially bald).

Eight left Virginia yesterday and came down to Dayton with Mr. Sutro. Time 30 minutes – distance 8 or 9 miles. There is nothing very slow about that kind of travel. We found Dayton the same old place but taking up a good deal more room than it did the last time I saw it, and looking more brisk and lively with its increase of business, and more handsome on account of the beautiful dressed stone buildings with which it is being embellished of late.

We . . . trotted briskly across Ball Robert’s bridge. I remarked that Ball Robert’s bridge was a good one and a credit to that bald gentleman. I said it in a fine burst of humor and more on account of the joke than anything else, but Sutro is insensible to the more delicate touches of American wit, and the effort was entirely lost on him. I don’t think Sutro minds a joke of mild character any more than a dead man would. However, I repeated it once or twice without producing any visible effect, and finally derived what comfort I could by laughing at it myself.

Mr. Sutro being a confirmed business man, replied in a practical and businesslike way. He said the bridge was a good one, and so were all public blessings of a similar nature when entrusted to the hands of private individuals. He said if the county had built the bridge it would have cost an extravagant sum of money, and would have been eternally out of repair. He also said the only way to get public work well and properly done was to let it out by contract.

"For instance," says he, "they have fooled away two or three years trying to capture Richmond, whereas if they had let the job by contract to some sensible business man, the thing would have been accomplished and forgotten long ago." It was a novel and original idea and I forgot my joke for the next half hour in speculating upon its feasibility….

Outsourcing still seems like a novel idea, nearly one-hundred and fifty years later. At least for Caltrans. So, what can we do about improving California’s need for improved roads? The Orange County Business Journal allows me to share a few thoughts in the submittal below.

For a primer on the issues facing Caltrans, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Road to November — June 8, 2016 June 8, 2016June 8, 2016 John Moorlach.

7-Step Fix for ‘Mismanaged’ Caltrans

By Sen. JohnMoorlach,State Senator, 37th District

California has chosen costly high-speed rail over road repairs.

It has chosen to pay $500 million per year for unnecessary Caltrans staffing over making Caltrans the best department of transportation in the nation.

There’s no question that Caltrans is bloated and mismanaged and is not held accountable.

But what to do with a mismanaged Caltrans?

Especially before the state of California dares to ask you for another gas tax increase, more car taxes, and/or higher vehicle license fees from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

First, we ask Gov. Jerry Brown to better manage the staffing of Caltrans. In May 2014, the Legislative Analyst’s Office determined that Caltrans had 3,500 too many architects and engineers at a cost of $500 million per year.

Instead of employing unneeded staffers, these funds should go directly to our roads.

As it is, only 20 cents out of every transportation tax dollar that you pay actually hits the pavement.

Second, we ask the governor to reduce the size of Caltrans even more by outsourcing services. An average state transportation agency outsources 50% of its architects and engineers. Arizona and Florida outsource more than 80%. Caltrans outsources only 10%.

If the governor is concerned about economic cycles, then let’s address it by being nimble during downturns. It is easier to terminate or postpone contracts than it is to lay off a portion of the state’s work force. Fortunately, 54% of the staff at Caltrans are at or near retirement age, so a hiring freeze would be a great strategy to implement, and reductions could be easily achieved through attrition.

Third, we ask the last 38 counties to self-fund their road repairs. Currently, 20 counties are taxing themselves to improve transit and highway systems. Why should those 20 counties be asked to incur yet more tax hikes to assist those counties that did not make roads a priority? Since the voters in those 20 counties voted themselves a tax increase to fix their roads, those in the other counties should follow suit. In Orange County, this strategy has made a stark impact on freeways and roads. Take Interstate 5 north sometime, and you will know when you’ve hit the Los Angeles County line.

Fourth, we ask the governor and his secretary of transportation to reorganize the Caltrans management structure. Its district decision-making model is shameful and tone deaf. Believe me, I observed it firsthand as an Orange County supervisor. Orange County residents were ready to pay $1.3 billion to modify 17 freeway overpasses for an Interstate 405 expansion, allowing for the addition of four lanes on a very congested segment of thoroughfare.

Unfortunately, Caltrans insisted on building toll roads on those potential new lanes. They announced this long before related improvements, such as the West County Connector Project from Interstate 405 to Interstate 605, were completed. Now, long before the groundbreaking to add the four lanes with self-help tax dollars, Caltrans has infuriated and frustrated the residents of Orange County with an insistence of more taxes on top of voluntary taxes.

Fifth, ask the governor to delegate some transportation construction to the counties. If a county’s department of transportation can manage road repairs more efficiently, then cut out Caltrans and direct those funds to that county’s department. The net result will be that more money will be available for roads. Why hasn’t this been done already? Because the public employee unions fear the potential resulting layoffs.

Sixth, ask the governor to notch up his rainy-day fund concept by requiring that reserves be set aside every year in anticipation of future road maintenance and replacement. Road repairs should not be a shock to our department of transportation. So why hasn’t it taken the common-sense approach of setting funds aside? Could it be that staff salary increases and pension plan contributions have taken a higher priority?

Over the past 14 years, while gas taxes were rising, transportation spending has remained virtually flat. This means that the state has redirected transportation tax revenues. The governor should redirect them back toward current and future infrastructure costs.

The seventh and final request: Ask the governor to cease and desist on building high-speed rail. By the time this $80 billion-plus boondoggle is completed, the ticket prices will be so high that flying will still be significantly cheaper. How can the taxpayers be badgered into paying more for road repairs when California is wasting billions on a project that less than 2% of the population will ever use? This misconnect has to stop.

California’s leadership should be sincere in its pursuit of better roads.

Fix Caltrans.

Taxpayers should expect no less.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Tackling Homelessness — August 13, 2016

One of the many joys of serving in an elected position is seeing that positive goals are accomplished. While serving as a County Supervisor, I worked on many of the fine efforts provided in the New Santa Ana piece below. I’ll spare you the links, but it is fun to reflect.

When the Orange County Transportation Authority voted to close its bus station on Santa Ana Boulevard, it was my initiative that kept its bathrooms available during daytime hours (where personnel were available to keep it clean). I also worked to try and make it a shelter from the rain, so I’m thrilled that this opportunity has finally been approved.

After pursuing two other potential 200-bed year-round homeless shelters, I am looking forward to the dedication ceremony of the facility recently acquired in the city of Anaheim.

And, you’ve heard enough from me recently about our efforts to obtain Mental Health Services Act funding for psychiatric beds through SB 1273. So, it’s nice to receive acknowledgement on this front.

The County is installing new bathrooms for the homeless at the Civic Center

Tackling Homelessness: County of Orange to Install New Bathrooms at Civic Center – Providing 24/7 Access for Homeless

By: First District Supervisor Andrew Do

(Santa Ana, California)— As part of its comprehensive response to homelessness, the County of Orange is moving forward with plans to install new bathrooms at the Orange County Civic Center, providing 24-hour access for hundreds of people who are currently homeless.

Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do, who has spearheaded the county’s homeless response, said that bathroom access is one of the most frequent complaints he’s heard from his discussions with homeless residents.

“You take access to a bathroom for granted,” said Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do. “After you sit and talk with people who are currently living at the Civic Center, you realize how difficult it can be to fulfill a basic human need.”

The county’s plan to expand bathroom access comes as the City of Santa Ana has temporarily closed the city’s library for renovations – a move that homeless advocates say is targeted at their community.

“One of the reasons they want to change the configuration is the hope that the homeless might not like sitting in the middle and being watched,” Larry “Smitty” Smith, who is currently homeless, told the Orange County Register.

Set to begin Monday, installation of the new bathrooms, planned for a highly visible location near Ross Street, is expected to solve one daily problem facing many people that are homeless. Currently, the only restrooms at the Civic Center are locked on a nightly basis, leaving few after-hours options for the nearly 400 people who live in and around the Civic Center in downtown Santa Ana.

The new 24-7 bathrooms are just the latest action by the County of Orange to tackle homelessness. Last fall, Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do first proposed a social care coordinator, or homeless czar to cut through bureaucratic red tape and improve existing services. That position was filled in May – with the appointment of Susan Price.

In advance of the El Nino storms, Supervisor Andrew Do succeeded in fast-tracking the transformation of an abandoned Santa Ana bus terminal into an emergency storm center. Approximately 4,000 people received food and shelter from the winter storms since it opened on January 30.

In May, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to open the competitive bidding process for an operator for the county’s first permanent, year-round shelter and multiservice center, which was unanimously approved by the board in November. The new shelter will provide shelter to 200 people, with supportive services available to help the homeless with everything from employment to mental health care.

Orange County has also partnered with local lawmakers and non-profit organizations to expand assistance programs and maximize mental health spending. In April, American Family Housing announced that, thanks in part to the county’s assistance, it was receiving $1.7 million for a new veteran housing project in Midway City. Expected to open in November, Potter’s Lane will provide housing and wrap-around services to homeless veterans.

In June, the Orange County Board of Supervisors moved forward with an application for an innovative pilot program focused on “whole person care.” If selected, the county and federal matching-funds would allocate $23.5 million to provide targeted wrap-around services to at-risk groups.

In 2015, Orange County taxpayers paid the Medi-Cal bills for 5,918 homeless patients that accessed local emergency rooms. More than 1,000 of these homeless patients enrolled in Medi-Cal visited Orange County emergency rooms more than once within a three-month period. If the county’s grant is approved, the Whole Person Care program will work to reduce these frequent emergency room visits by coordinating medical, behavioral health and social service programs to meet the individual needs of these high-risk Medi-Cal members.

State Senator John Moorlach has also supported the county’s efforts with changes at the state level to provide the county with greater flexibility over its mental health spending. In July, the California Department of Health Services administratively implemented Senate Bill 1273, fulfilling the county’s request to allocate mental health funds for crisis stabilization services.

“Orange County is committed to getting people off the streets and onto a productive path to self-sufficiency,” said Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do. “And we continue to look for more ways to help.”


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Only Opposition Vote — August 11, 2016

The Senate Judiciary Committee, where I serve as Vice Chair, addressed AB 2611 on June 21. The bill exempts from disclosure under the California Public Records Act any visual or audio recording of the death of a peace officer killed in the line of duty, unless the disclosure is authorized by the peace officer’s immediate family. I was not supportive of this bill and spoke against it. I was the only one to oppose it. Senator Leno stated that he would see it again in the Senate’s Public Safety Committee, a week later, where he also voted to oppose.

Senator Leno and I have been advocates of more public safety transparency (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Happy Father’s Day — June 19, 2016 june 19, 2016 john moorlach and the links it provides).

Being the only vote in opposition to certain bills is not an easy thing to do. So, when an editorial board recognizes that your lonely vote is actually the right position to take, it makes you feel better and affirms the importance of holding to strong principles. My thanks go to the editorial staff at the LA Daily News and the OC Register for the piece below.

But, wait, that’s not all. The Sacramento Bee has a guest editorial that commends my Floor comments and vote in opposition to SB 1190, which would limit ex parte communications at the California Coastal Commission (see MOORLACH UPDATE — California Coastal Commission — May 24, 2016 may 24, 2016 john moorlach).

I may not be on the winning side of some votes, but we’re getting recognized for taking tough stands on inappropriate and emotionally driven bills.

Body-cam bill runs counter to public interest

Putting body cam bill in focus

AB2611 runs counter to public interest.

Unquestionably, there’s emotional and visceral appeal in legislation that would prohibit the release of a public agency’s recording that depicts the killing of a peace officer in the line of duty unless the officer’s immediate family gives consent.

Unfortunately, the bill amounts to terrible public policy and, in most cases, would not accomplish its desired end.

That end, of course, is to protect the grieving family members of a slain police officer from suffering further anguish from the public’s viewing of their loved one’s death. That is a noble aim.

But in practice, Assembly Bill 2611, by Assemblyman Evan Low, D-San Jose, would work as intended only when footage from a police body-cam or dash-mounted camera was the only recording of an officer’s fatal encounter.

More often, as we’ve seen, the case would be that bystanders with cellphones had recorded the officer’s death, the events leading up to it or the aftermath. In such cases, the police department involved may well want to publicly release its own body-cam or dash recording to show the event in context and to show that the officer had acted appropriately. Then the grieving family, rather than being shielded from the public, would face pressure from the public and perhaps from their loved one’s police department to consent to release of the official footage.

But current law (Government Code Section 6255) allows public agencies and courts to balance the public’s right to access recordings when the particular circumstances warrant release, against the public interest in protecting the privacy of the officer and his or her family. Under that code, police agencies would certainly favor their officer’s family’s privacy over public release, unless there were critical public-interest reasons to release the footage to the public.

That sort of balancing of public interests is the right approach — and it’s already the law. AB 2611 would set a very dangerous precedent of allowing people who are not part of the government to control the public’s access to public records — made by agents and agencies that work for and report to the public, don’t forget. Absolute veto power for families goes against the public interest.

There are other, less important shortcomings in Low’s bill that make it bad legislation. The California Newspaper Publishers Association points out that it’s not clear exactly which relatives count as “immediate family.” The bill doesn’t make clear whether the consent of one family member is sufficient or whether all immediate family members — whoever that might be — must consent. It’s not clear what happens if an agency cannot find any or all immediate family members, or how much time it must spend attempting to do so.

Yet AB 2611 sailed through the Assembly without a no vote. Only Sens. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, and Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, have voted no in Senate committees.

If senators won’t stop Low’s bill, Gov. Jerry Brown should refuse to sign this legislation that runs counter to the interests of California’s public and, in most cases, even to the interests of the families of police officers.

Coastal bill restricts talk, and housing, too

Public hearings don’t give developers enough time to fairly present projects to the Coastal Commission. Like coastal housing, ex parte communications are a necessity.


Special to The Bee

We all want to help Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature solve the Golden State’s acute need for more housing. So why would legislators send the governor a bill that makes it even more difficult to build housing – especially in coastal cities?

Yet contrary to The Sacramento Bee’s opinion, “A murky bid to block Coastal Commission transparency” (Editorial, Aug. 7), that’s exactly what Senate Bill 1190 – the California Coastal Commission ex parte communications ban legislation – would do.

SB 1190, which faces a crucial vote Thursday in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, would give coastal zone housing applicants no opportunity to communicate directly with coastal commissioners, other than the 15 minutes allotted them at a commission hearing.

Try condensing a planned community, one that has taken years of hard work and compromise between elected and appointed officials, into a 15-minute presentation. It’s unfair to well-intentioned applicants who already face an arcane Coastal Commission system tilted against them.

Housing purveyors seek only a level playing field that allows applicants an equal opportunity to present their projects to – and receive direct feedback from – coastal commissioners. That way, each commissioner can cast a clear, informed vote.

If SB 1190 becomes law, applicants will have to rely solely on staff feedback to learn what commissioners think about their housing plans – feedback sure to be altered and degraded by secondhand communication or bias.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, was right when he told the Los Angeles Times: “Currently, it’s nearly impossible to get a full and adequate hearing without ex parte communications.”

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, in voting against SB 1190 on the Senate floor, stated that this bill is “too restrictive on communications between the public and its government.”

Democrats and Republicans agree: Ex parte communications are a practical avenue for applicants to ensure that projects get a fair Coastal Commission hearing.

I hope that the governor and Legislature will not allow SB 1190 to turn this avenue into a dead end.

John Santry is executive vice president of Shopoff Realty Investments in Irvine.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Half Full or Half Empty? — August 9, 2016

The old debate of the glass being half full or half empty seems to spill over into many areas, including the public employee defined benefit pension plan world.

Those who have a vested interest in receiving a retirement benefit from a public employee pension plan, usually public employee union representatives, will tell you that CalPERS is half full. Those that have a strong understanding of the math involved with public employee pension plans are convinced that they are half empty. You can see it by their quotes. The OC Register piece below is below is a fine example of this ongoing debate.

The $100,000 Club is one metric by which to provide an understandable means for most people on the money being bantered around. It resonates. And, members of the media understand it. This information has introduced many reporters to this subject that would not ordinarily have been interested. After all, defined benefit pension plans are a MEGO issue and it is difficult for audio and visual media representatives to present. "My Eyes Glaze Over" is what MEGO stands for. I ran into this phenomenon back in 1994 trying to explain reverse repurchase agreements and inverse floaters.

Folks, the glass is half empty and municipal budgets are being heavily impacted, not only in California, but around the nation. To see the magnitude of how often public pensions now receive media attention, I would recommend that you visit the Pension Tsunami website at And this topic is guaranteed to command more media attention as the months and years pass.

It is time for the Governor of California and the Legislature to get in front of this massive fiscal drain (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Peter Pan Portfolio — July 24, 2016 july 24, 2016 john moorlach). Nibbling on the edges is not going to cut it. Otherwise, the next Governor is going to be the recipient of the Pension Tsunami.

P.S. Happy 36th Wedding Anniversary, Trina!

Public retirees with pensions over $100,000 a growing group

CalPERS: Data showing ‘100K Club’ membership jump not the whole story.



Back in 2005, just 1,841 retirees pulled down more than $100,000 a year in pension checks from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

A decade later, membership in the so-called $100K Club had swelled by nearly 20,000 souls.

CalPERS data provided to the conservative leaning group Transparent California, and analyzed by the Register, found that 21,652 public retirees received annual benefits of more than $100,000 in 2015.

That figure includes a jump of 28 percent in just two years – which might seem jarring at first blush, but actually represents a slowdown in the club’s explosive growth of late. Between 2005 and 2009, membership in CalPERS’ $100K Club tripled. Then, between 2009 and 2013, it nearly tripled again, largely a function of higher working salaries and more generous retirement formulas.

Orange County landed just one retired worker on the Top 25 statewide: Dave Ream, longtime Santa Ana city manager, at $263,202. Los Angeles-area cities, special districts and universities dominated the Top 25.


Tracking this number is acontroversial endeavor.

“What makes the ‘$100,000 Club’ some magic number denoting abuse other than the claims of anti-pension zealots?” said Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition of 1.6 million public workers and retirees.

“The classifications in the ‘club’ are doctors, lawyers, hospital administrators, city managers, superintendents, college chancellors and presidents, etc., who are often earning far less than their counterparts in the private sector,” Low said.

The average CalPERS pension is less than one-third of that, said Amy Morgan, spokeswoman for Cal-PERS.

But advocates for major public pension reform cite the $100K Club boom as evidence that the system – which guarantees payouts for life, regardless of whether CalPERS has enough money – is unsustainable over the long haul and must be revamped to protect taxpayers, who are ultimately on the hook.

“What this information does is remove the shroud that defines public pensions and lets people see what things cost,” said Robert Fellner, research director for Transparent California.

“Contrary to the incredibly misleading averages they cite – which include people who worked for just a couple of years but still get a pension, which pulls down the average – you see the benefits are rich when you look at the folks who worked a full career. There aren’t people who work a full career and get the average pension.”

Our spin through the data shows that the average pension for retirees with 25 or more years of service – roughly one-third of the people in the system – was $55,189.


CalPERS has pointed out that the $100K Club has remained relatively stable at 2 percent to 3 percent of the total pool of retirees through the years. In 2013, we calculated the club at 2.9 percent of all retirees; for 2015, we calculated it at 3.5 percent.

“Measuring the percentage increase is an absurd measure, as the number was low and continues to be so as part of the overall workforce,” said Steven Maviglio, spokesman for Californians for Retirement Security. “Of the top earners, these employees tend to be upper management or public safety workers who have put substantial hours of OT on the job – and have no Social Security.”

Unlike in the private sector, about 29 percent of Cal-PERS retirees don’t get Social Security benefits, said Morgan, CalPERS’ spokeswoman, so their CalPERS pension may be their sole source of retirement income.

Though pension reforms for new hires enacted in 2013 will eventually make it much harder to crack the $100K Club – even for upper management – it will take decades before those new hires retire, and the effects are seen.

That means membership in the club will keep growing, “if for no other reason (than) because salaries will go up over time,” Low said.


Transparent California found that, in all, 1,495 Orange County retirees collected benefits worth at least $100,000, an 11 percent increase from last year.

The list is dominated at the top by city managers, but public safety officers largely round it out.

In California, public pension promises are considered etched in stone and cannot be altered, at least not outside of federal bankruptcy court.

Most cities and special districts in Orange County –and statewide – contract with CalPERS to run their retirement systems. It covers all state workers as well. CalPERS is the largest public retirement system in the world and largely viewed as a bellwether and a trendsetter.

Climbing unfunded liabilities, weak investment earnings and expectations for less-robust earnings over the next 30 years are fueling cries for reform.

“The next governor will have a big job on his/her hands,” said state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, long a pension-reform warrior. “And if the nation enters its next recession, the situation will get even bleaker.”



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MOORLACH UPDATE — Addressing Dereliction — August 8, 2016

The Sacramento Bee‘s lead editorial provides a local tragedy about a mentally ill, homeless man, that emphasizes the importance of pursuing solutions. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Attaboy — August 5, 2016 august 5, 2016 john moorlach and related links.


An all-too common dereliction

Mike Lehmkuhl’s death is an all-too-common story of abdication of our responsibility to care for people who cannot care for themselves.

Mike Lehmkuhl’s descent from businessman and homeowner into insanity, homelessness and death on a chilly January afternoon should shock us all.

Lehmkuhl’s friends and family tried for years to intervene. But Sacramento’s law enforcement and mental health care workers failed to take the steps that might have brought him in from the cold. It’s an all-too-common dereliction.

As told by The Sacramento Bee’s Cynthia Hubert, Lehmkuhl’s friends visited his home one day to find “crucifixes and religious figurines smashed across the floor. Books burned and scattered. Steak knives thrust into walls that were smeared with feces.”

His water came from a garden hose and his electricity came from an extension cord plugged in at a neighbor’s house. Mental health care workers did hold him for a short time, but released him with little if any follow-up care.

Between 2012 and 2015, Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies were called to his Arden Arcade home at least 25 times because of his erratic behavior.

Deputies never found cause to deliver him to mental health care workers, concluding that he was not a danger to himself or others, the standard set by Welfare and Institutions Code 5150. Deputies did, however, take action in 2015 when they evicted him from his home for failing to make mortgage payments. Money talked. The lender had its rights.

Lehmkuhl shuffled off to the streets, and ultimately to the American River Parkway, a few miles from the Capitol, and a few blocks from the Sacramento police officers’ union hall. He was camping there on Jan. 9, when he picked up a tree branch and charged a private security guard, who shot and killed him.

Law enforcement officers and mental health case workers generally don’t intervene if seriously mentally ill people refuse help, until they commit a crime. During his months of homelessness, Lehmkuhl was arrested for minor violations. However, judges and Sacramento County jailers released him back to the streets, without insisting that he receive care.

Legislators this year earmarked $2 billion to build housing for chronically homeless people who have mental illness. The money is expected to produce at least 20,000 units. That will help some people. But the money will be ill-spent if there aren’t aggressive efforts to shelter people who, like Lehmkuhl, resist assistance.

Assembly Bill 2262 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae, would give judges more flexibility when sentencing mentally ill defendants. The bill has stalled, but lawmakers should return to the topic in 2017.

Another measure, AB 1300 by Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, would expand the power of emergency room physicians to issue 5150 holds. It’s not clear that issues raised by his bill are fully resolved.

Emergency rooms have become de facto psychiatric wards, though many hospitals are not equipped to handle mentally ill patients. The California Hospital Association backs the bill, and the patient advocacy group, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, fears hospitals want to shed a difficult patient population.

For now, there is a shortage of crisis beds. Sen. John Moorlach, an Orange County Republican, said that in his county of 3 million people, there are 10 crisis beds. In part because of Moorlach’s Senate Bill 1273, the state has announced that it will divert some revenue from Proposition 63 – the 2004 initiative that raised taxes to fund mental health care – to add crisis beds.

That will help some people, though not people who are the toughest to reach. They will remain out in the cold until authorities take a more assertive approach, and insist that they accept care. Until that happens, we will be shocked when people like Mike Lehmkuhl die. Or maybe inured.


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