MOORLACH UPDATE — CRP and SR 65 — May 2, 2016

I had a fun weekend in Burlingame, enjoying the 2016 California Republican Party Convention. I had opportunities to listen to U.S. Presidential candidates Donald Trump, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. I even had the chance to take a photo with Gov. Kasich (Trump bailed on the photo session after lunch and my staff member was not admitted to the Cruz photo session, so I passed.) Now it is time to select one of the candidates, or not.

The Convention had plenty of its own subtle drama. And I enjoyed talking with many wonderful activists from around the state. While the Party was enjoying one of its more memorable Conventions, the Daily Pressgenerated the two editorials below. Again, it is nice to be acknowledged for our attempts to improve the state of California. I just wish the state would admit that it needs to change. For background, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Opposition — April 22, 2016 april 22, 2016 john moorlach, MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1251 and SB 1140 — April 12, 2016 april 12, 2016 john moorlach, and MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Insubordination — March 18, 2016 march 18, 2016 john moorlach.

Last Monday’s Floor Session included my first Senate Resolution, SR 65, declaring May as California Lupus Awareness Month. Balita News picked up our press release and it is provided in the third piece below.

Our View: Dangerous ideas? Dems have plenty of them

Democratic National Committee officials sent media outlets a press release Wednesday to alert them to a "Press call" to address the GOP’s "dangerous ideas" ahead of the California Republican Convention.

Among those participating were Senator Barbara Boxer, House Democratic caucus chairman Xavier Becerra and DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda.

Among other things, Boxer, Becerra and Miranda claimed the Republican presidential candidates were all "completely out-of-touch with average Californians."

That’s rich.

The Democratic Party leadership finally must be sensing that Donald Trump, in particular, is resonating with more and more Americans, even Democrats. Why else would they bother to hold a press call on this? Did they forget they hold a huge advantage over the GOP in voter registration in the Golden State?

If you want to talk about dangerous ideas, most of the ones we would mention are ideas generated by California Democrats.

Topping the list would be Gov. Jerry Brown’s "crazy train," the high speed rail system he wants to spend $68 billion or more on although it has no certain funding source and little public support after the initial $10 billion in bonds is spent.

Next up would be a proposal to make California drivers pay taxes based on miles driven. The Democrats have never met a tax they didn’t like, so why not stick it to commuters even more? Forget the fact that Californians already pay among the highest gasoline taxes in the nation.

Unlimited union power, as long as those unions continue to fill Democratic candidates’ campaign coffers, deserves to be on the list, too. From the California Teachers Union to the SEIU, union power is plentiful in Sacramento. If anyone doubted that, just reflect on the minimum wage increase Gov. Brown signed into law recently. Even though the governor knew it would add more than $3 billion per year to the state budget and he had previously opposed the wage hike, he kowtowed to his union buddies. Who cares if thousands of jobs are lost by those who can least afford to be unemployed? The Democrats will laugh about that all the way to the bank as the big bucks from unions continue to roll in.

Union power also comes into play with our last example of a dangerous idea: the Democrats’ belief that transparency is overrated. State Senator John Moorlach of Orange Countyfound that out when he proposed SB 1248, which would have required transparency in California Environmental Quality Act litigation. Democrats called it "dangerous" and killed it in committee. Another one of Moorlach’s bills, SB 1251, which would establish the California Financial Transparency Act and require the state’s financial data to be printed in the voter information pamphlet, also is likely to be killed. Unions up and down the state already are lobbying hard against it.

It appears California Democrats know plenty about dangerous ideas. That’s because they come up with most of them.

Our View: Caltrans audits more than disturbing

In California, it appears, the road to waste is paved not with good intentions, but rather by Caltrans.

At least a report by the State Auditor released recently would lead us to believe that, as well as another audit conducted last year by the state Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Among the findings of these various audits:

1) Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 employees, at a cost of $500 million per year.

2) 62 percent of Caltrans projects exceed their budget.

3) One Caltrans employee golfed for 55 days on the clock, even bragging to co-workers about it.

4) Caltrans has weak controls over spending; in some cases no controls.

5) No supporting documentation is maintained for work order costs used to complete field maintenance work.

Orange County state Senator John Moorlach looked over the latest audit and wasted no time providing his thoughts:

“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,” said the Republican from Costa Mesa. “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.”

Yes, lie. That was another topic that was addressed in the latest audit.

According to the State Auditor, Caltrans lied to state legislators for seven years about implementing recommendations from a $250,000 study conducted to help the agency improve field maintenance operations for greater efficiency. While legislators thought Caltrans was following these recommendations, it wasn’t. And it didn’t seem to care that taxpayers’ money was wasted on the study.

“The metrics tell the story," Moorlach said in a release. "We pay some of the nation’s highest costs for our roads, and we have some of the worst roads to show for it. Caltrans is a broken agency.”

Broken and gigantic. It has nearly 20,000 employees (about one-quarter of whom work at Caltrans headquarters) and an annual budget of more than $10.5 billion.

According to its website, Caltrans’ vision is to be a "performance-driven, transparent and accountable organization that values its people, resources and partners, and meets new challenges through leadership, innovation and teamwork."

Its stated goals? "Safety and health, stewardship and efficiency, sustainability, livability and economy, system performance, organizational excellence." It’s values? "Integrity, commitment, teamwork, innovation."

Unfortunately, it appears the agency is falling short on transparency, teamwork, stewardship, efficiency and integrity.

The time for bloated bureaucracies is long past, particularly when California has such a long list of highway infrastructure needs. State lawmakers should trim some of the fat from Caltrans’ budget and make whatever changes necessary to make it function efficiently and transparently.

May is ‘California Lupus Awareness Month’

(Sacramento) – Senator Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) yesterday presented Senate Resolution 65, which designates May as “California Lupus Awareness Month.” Senate Resolution 65 passed with a 36-0 vote, receiving overwhelming, bipartisan support. The measure seeks to bring greater awareness, understanding and insight to the devastating effects of Lupus.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of various parts of the body including: the skin, joints, heart, and kidneys. At present, Lupus affects 1.5 million Americans, many of whom are women.

“Lupus has affected my office, as my District Director’s wife – Megan – was diagnosed with Lupus in high school,” said Moorlach. “Without the support of the Lupus community, Megan, and many of those diagnosed, would have nowhere to turn to as they look to combat this life affecting disease. I want to thank the Lupus Foundation of Northern California, Lupus Foundation of Southern California, and Lupus Los Angeles for all of their dedicated work helping the Lupus community in California.”

In attendance for the passing of Senate Resolution 65 were representatives from the Lupus Foundation of Northern California, Lupus Foundation of Southern California, and Lupus Los Angeles.

“Every day, lupus patients confront challenges from chronic, debilitating pain to kidney disease and chemotherapy. What gives these survivors the strength that we are in awe of is the message that they are not alone in the fight. With the message of support from their doctors, their family, their peers and community organizations like the Lupus Foundation of Northern California (LFNC) comes hope that they have Lupus; Lupus doesn’t have them. We are thrilled and grateful that Senator Moorlach and his colleagues are adding their voices to that chorus of hope,” said Erin C. Badillo, Executive Director,Lupus Foundation of Northern California.

Senate Approves Resolution Designating May as "California Lupus Awareness Month" (photo courtesy of http://district37.cssrc.us/)

Senate Approves Resolution Designating May as “California Lupus Awareness Month” (photo courtesy of http://district37.cssrc.us/)

“Working with Senator Moorlach and his staff has been a very valuable experience. I greatly appreciate his efforts to bring together the three leading lupus organizations in California. The collaboration has been both positive and productive and the groups have combined forces to promote lupus awareness and disease prevention to the community through the California State Senate,” stated Hollaine Hopkins, Executive Director, Lupus Foundation of Southern California.

“Recognition by State officials of the importance of Lupus awareness and advocacy work, helps to support our Lupus community in their everyday life by validating their experience with this often invisible disease. Addressing the needs of the chronically ill through government funded research programs and through better access to healthcare are important steps in finding a cure to this devastating disease. Lupus LA commends Senator Moorlach and his colleagues in the Senate in their efforts to bring forth awareness and improved care to the Lupus community, ” said Toby L. Berkow, Executive Director, LUPUS LA.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Stanton Central Park — April 28, 2016

Occasionally, but rarely, do you read an in-depth analysis of the history of fiscal decisions in a municipality. Financial decisions do have impacts and repercussions. For instance, the city of Stanton is the poster-child of redevelopment agency abuse. And, it has consistently supported public employee union attempts to keep the Orange County Employees Retirement System’s Board’s efforts to adjust various actuarial assumptions to more realistic positions. Of course, this was done to keep pension contributions artificially low.

It seems that every time I enjoyed time in this city from my former Supervisorial District, I was asked to help finance a park, usually on the Los Alamitos Joint Task Force Base.

When redevelopment agencies were terminated in 2011, successor agencies had to be established. For Stanton’s, I appointed Rick Muth. The trials and tribulations that he encountered are documented in a factual manner below in the OC Weekly piece below. For some history, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Front and Center — April 6, 2015 april 6, 2015 john moorlach, MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Second and Stanton — October 28, 2014 october 28, 2014 john moorlach, and MOORLACH UPDATE — City of Stanton — March 4, 2013 march 4, 2013 john moorlach.

The residents of Stanton have well-meaning elected officials. However, when a strong personality has an odd agenda, sad things can result. The author is one of the finest writers in the nation and provides a great account of recent history. And Rich Muth needs to be applauded for his service to his community.

Despite the Threat of Bankruptcy, Stanton Is Spending Millions to Build One Park

BY WILL SWAIM

CHAPTER 1: PIGS
In March 2011, facing a $4 million deficit, panicked Stanton City Council members met in special session and voted unanimously, dramatically to declare a fiscal emergency.

It was the sort of thing we’d been hearing from Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain for months—a government’s tax revenues falling so disastrously short of its spending that what comes next is slaughterhouse ugly. By the standard of the PIGS, what followed immediately in Stanton might strike you as banal: Having declared a fiscal emergency, the council agreed to ask voters to approve a 50 percent hike in the city utility tax, from 5 percent to 7.5 percent.

At that meeting, David Shawver—then a 23-year council veteran and self-proclaimed "ultra-conservative football coach Republican"—said he and his colleagues had no choice but to raise taxes. As with the PIGS of Europe, the Great Recession had slammed Stanton, Shawver said. The city was pinched between the rising cost of its public workers and falling property- and sales-tax revenues. Conservative George W. Bush bailed out the nation’s largest banks in 2008; David Shawver begged for a new tax in 2011.

"We had to come up with some type of system or some type of program to generate more revenue to keep the city going," Shawver told a Garden Grove reporter at the time.

That same night, leaning on the podium reserved for public comments, a retiree named Charles Rell asked Shawver and the others a question that seems just as pertinent today: "How much more can we afford to pay?"

Shawver’s response could have been that neither Rell’s personal finances nor even arithmetic figured into the city’s calculations. Because long before that night, Shawver and his council colleagues had embarked on a great adventure, a free-spending circus in one of the county’s poorest and smallest cities: the creation of a $6 million park that would supernova into a $24 million project that will cost the city millions more over time.

Whether Rell and others like him can afford that park is irrelevant. Thanks to Shawver, they’ll have to.

It’s not too late to christen it Central Pork.

“What’s that old saying about the first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole—stop digging?” —Steven Greenhut

“What’s that old saying about the first thing you do when you find yourself in a
hole—stop digging?” —Steven Greenhut
Brian Feinzimer

CHAPTER 2: GO-GO, STANTON!

To understand how truly weird it is to blow $24 million after you’ve declared a fiscal emergency and begged the public to raise taxes, it’s best to start in 2010. In September of that year, about the time of the Great Recession’s second, deepest roller-coaster plunge, the city announced it would spend $12.5 million to purchase land from the Savanna School District. Two months later, at a formal signing ceremony, buyer and seller cock-a-doodled their delight. Stanton City Council member Al Ethans said the purchase "enhances our facilities for parks beyond our fondest expectation."

Looking back from the lofty promontory of 2016, hearing a guy say that his real-estate deal is "beyond our fondest expectation" sounds like the sort of go-man-go, mad-money hyperbole that was on almost every overmortgaged American’s lips—right up to the moment the housing crisis burned down the entire planetary economy in 2008.

Stanton’s $12.5 million land acquisition was followed just four months later by the self-declared fiscal emergency and the call for a bump in the utility tax.

Finances grew shakier. Stanton voters rejected the council’s pitch for a tax hike on utilities. And in June 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that he and state lawmakers had decided to kill the state’s scandal-plagued redevelopment process. For years, city officials, including those in Stanton, had used the state’s redevelopment law as a revenue booster. In return for declaring property "blighted," city officials were allowed to freeze the assessed value of that property and therefore the property-tax revenue for everybody else. School districts all over the state went into the red as their expenses climbed but their share of property-tax revenue remained frozen by the city. Redevelopment in Stanton meant that schools were on fixed incomes while the city captured 100 percent of the tax on the increase in the value of the land over time—what geeks call the "tax increment."

Officials were not unique in having claimed their entire city was blighted, and therefore subject to the pickpocket-light touch of the city tax collector. State lawmakers excused the accounting trick as necessary to improvements—by which they meant the replacement of rundown properties with high-income, tax-generating commercial and residential projects.

When the band stopped playing—when Sacramento officials shut down the redevelopment dance hall—Shawver threatened legal action. In a statement that reveals his very liberal reading of a program that was supposed to build new buildings and clear away the wreckage of his city’s past, Shawver told the Orange County Register, "We were using that money for a lot of our city services."

Brown’s decision ended Stanton’s future casino-style real-estate investments—but would not apply retroactively to the 2010 announcement to buy school property, though no cash would change hands until 2013.

Throughout much of that period, a Los Angeles Times reporter noted, the digital sign outside the Stanton City Hall blinked the ominous, verb-free reminder: "STANTON FISCAL CRISIS." In June 2012, just before voters killed the utility-tax hike, City Manager Carol Jacobs warned residents the city was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Tallying up the toll of the financial crisis in Stanton in 2012, Times reporter Christine Mai-Duc wrote, "In the last two years, after-school programs have been cut, city staffers have been laid off and even the lone police station in town has closed to the public, a sign on the door offering residents a number to call if they need assistance. The city has even elected to stop paying dues to the League of California Cities, an organization that lobbies on behalf of local governments. It’s not required by law, says City Manager Carol Jacobs, and Stanton just can’t afford it."

"We’ve never really had much fat in this city," Shawver told the Times. "We’re getting to a point here where there’s not much left to cut."

CHAPTER 3: DON’T MENTION THE PORK

To recap: a self-declared "fiscal emergency," the threat of bankruptcy so catastrophic that the city had shuttered its police station, the end of redevelopment and the death of a tax hike at the polls. During all of this, in October 2011, the council voted to spend $6 million to build Central Park on land it bought from the school district for $12.5 million.

Shawver: Father of Stanton’s $24 million park

Shawver: Father of Stanton’s $24 million park
Kevin McVeigh

That would be $18.5 million. But the cost to build Stanton Central Park is now at least $24 million—the cost of the school property, plus the city’s upwardly revised $11.5 million construction estimate.

Still, the city spends. And as if to answer Rell, the fixed-income retiree raising uncomfortable questions at that 2011 emergency council meeting, city officials asked residents to pay still more. But they don’t mention Stanton Central Pork.

In 2014, city council members, many of them present for the unanimous declaration of financial emergency three years before, backed a 1 percent local sales tax. Their reason: Without the sales-tax increase, they told voters, the city would lose vital public-safety services. Of course, it wasn’t presented that way in the city’s full-color, ALL-CAPS messaging. In that campaign, opposing the city sales tax meant you supported house fires and gangsters—and, what’s maybe worse, that you hated cops and firefighters.

Faced this second time with a tax hike or the apocalypse, voters approved the tax.

Shawver has tried to downplay the impact of the now-1-year-old tax hike on residents—and is working to kill a November 2016 ballot measure to repeal the tax.

The self-described conservative and member of the Orange County Republican Party’s central committee told a March community gathering that the increased sales tax is great—because it’s pretty much a tax on outsiders and it pays for sheriff’s deputies and firefighters.

"It’s a tax on people who drive through our community," Shawver said at that meeting. "They drive up and down Beach Boulevard, stop to get gas, and we get one penny. One penny! And thanks to that one little penny, we’ve been able to restore critical public-safety assets."

It also hits anyone who shops in Stanton, of course, though not (the officials stayed carefully on message) grocery and pharmaceuticals shoppers.

But it’s all for a good cause, Shawver said: public safety.

Stanton has a well-earned reputation for violence—it’s among the toughest towns in a county more famous for catfights among wealthy housewives than gunfights, gangs and prostitution. So public safety is no abstract line item. But even Shawver admits the county sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and paramedics who patrol Stanton are a major cost center.

"I’m not going to fool you," Shawver told the community gathering. "Public safety is expensive, but I am concerned with maintaining the level of service that you demand."

Already expensive, public safety is getting pricier. This year, the city will pay an additional $1.1 million for public safety, most of that for the escalating pay and benefits of its $220,000-per-year firefighters and $187,000-per-year sheriff’s deputies. Those are extraordinary pay packages, even in relatively affluent Orange County. And they stand out especially in Stanton, where the median yearly household income is $46,000 and 22 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. They were negotiated with the county by the powerful firefighters’ and deputies’ unions—the same public-employee unions that back Shawver and who carried almost the entire cost of the 2014 campaign to raise the sales tax.

Building the narrative: Estimated costs for Central Park have quadrupled

Building the narrative: Estimated costs for Central Park have quadrupled
Brian Feinzimer

CHAPTER 4: ‘STOP DIGGING’

If it weren’t for a few lousy public investments—such as the park—the city might be able to pay its sheriffs and firefighters even at that stratospheric level, without a tax hike of any kind. But park spending never made even a cameo appearance in the muffled 2014 debate over the tax increase. There has been only limited dissent inside City Hall. Stanton businessman Rick Muth was an early critic of the park, and that was when he was outside City Hall. Muth says he became more alarmed when he got inside, after Republican state Senator (and former Orange County treasurer and county supervisor) John Moorlach appointed him to the oversight board responsible for winding down Stanton’s redevelopment agency. That put Muth directly in contact with Shawver and Shawver’s Great Pork.

Muth’s connection to Stanton runs through Orco Block Co., the company that Muth’s father, grandfather and a family friend created in 1946—a full decade before Stanton became a city. The Big Bang in Southern California building that followed shortly after Orco’s founding continues to this day, and it helped make the company one of the largest building-materials suppliers in the region.

Orco is still in Stanton, and Rick Muth runs it. Like Shawver, Muth is a self-declared conservative. Unlike Shawver, he clearly expects the city’s finances to be handled as a business like Orco might manage them.

Citing the city’s financial emergency and a general lack of transparency where city spending is concerned, Muth opposed park funding. He says he battled city staff "even to get minutes from meetings" and was repeatedly denied itemized park expenses. When he asked council members how a city in a financial death spiral could afford to build and maintain the park, Muth says Shawver told him that all construction and operations costs would be funded through the sale of "excess city land around the park" once the real-estate market ticked up.

Muth says shortly after that conversation, he was touring the proposed park site with another council member. He asked the council member to point out the excess park land Shawver had said would be sold to cover operating expenses. Muth says the council member looked at him "with this really puzzled look on his face" and told Muth there was no excess park land to sell.

Now it was Muth’s turn to look puzzled. But the council member said any budget gap would be easy to fill: The city would cut down on park costs by closing the Central Park occasionally. Muth is still incredulous as he recounts the conversation and those that followed. "No one could tell me how you close a park for a few days every week," he says.

"The last straw for me," Muth recalls, "was when the city refused to give another oversight board member the true, full cost of the park"—unless she dropped her demand to explain how the park had jumped from $6 million to $8 million, then to $11.5 million. In March 2015, he resigned from the board.

Shawver did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

His City Council campaign site lists accomplishments that will outnumber mine if I live to be 400. He’s a credentialed teacher; a softball, wrestling and football coach at Millikan High School in Long Beach for 42 years; he’s got certificates for first aid, CPR and lifeguarding. He’s taught religion in his Catholic parish. He coached Pop Warner football and was his Neighborhood Watch director. He volunteered for the Stanton Haunted House, the Christmas pageant, the Easter egg hunt and the Drug Busters youth program. The list of activities that Shawver recites—afternoon teas, soccer, fiestas, civic clubs, pancake breakfasts and charity luncheons—suggests not just boundless commitment, but also capacious memory of his own remarkable contribution. It’s unlikely he’s forgotten anything.

But if these good deeds indicate feverish social activity, they do not really capture something else about the man: After 28 years on the Stanton City Council, he says, "my work is not finished." Looking back over the past many years of financial drama, the city’s residents may wish that it was—finished, I mean.

The man’s energy may also explain his Rooseveltian (Franklin, not Teddy) sense that government can and should do anything, including build a massive park in a time of financial crisis. "Quality of life is very important, but if a city is in such financial crisis that it has to go out and raise taxes, well, you just have to go back to basics, to do what you’re absolutely responsible for," says former city of Orange mayor Carolyn Cavecche, who is CEO of the Orange County Taxpayers Association.

Building a park is nice, Cavecche says, "because everybody loves parks, including me." But paying for public safety? "That’s just basic."

Steven Greenhut laughed when told about the city’s decision to build Central Park in the midst of financial crises. "What’s that old saying about the first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole? Stop digging?" says Greenhut, a former Register editorial writer who’s now western region director for the free-market R Street Institute. "Cities that cry ‘poverty’ and ‘public safety’ to convince their residents to pay higher taxes have no business spending big bucks on new parks."

CHAPTER 5: THE PAPER TRAIL

City officials say not to worry. The city budget declares, "The project’s design, construction and construction management are funded from a Redevelopment Agency Bond, a State Grant and Park-In-Lieu Fees and has no impact on the City’s General Fund."

Muth: Opposed the park before it was cool

Muth: Opposed the park before it was cool
Kevin McVeigh

Translation: State taxpayers (who generously funded the public-parks-friendly Proposition 84, but who don’t count because, like drivers who stop in Stanton to buy gas, most of them live elsewhere) and hypothetical future real-estate developers (who will pay fees on construction) will fund most of the park. On page 126, deep in the Stanton budget, there’s also the promise that city staff will "successfully procure sponsors and additional revenue programs for the new Stanton Central Park." In public meetings, officials have offered the example of revenue from participants in a community softball league.

But by far the biggest source of cash will come from $28 million in bonds hurriedly issued by the Stanton Redevelopment Agency just as Brown raised his sword over the program.

The city’s assertion that paying for the Central Park will have "no impact on the City’s General Fund" is hard to square with reality. My colleague, the bond analyst Marc Joffe, found Stanton’s bonds cost city taxpayers nearly $400,000 to issue. Interest payments—totaling $42 million over 30 years—will continue to put a multimillion-dollar ding in the city’s budgets.

There are other significant park costs that Stanton officials never mention in their estimates but which appear scattered throughout city financial documents. There’s lost revenue from the golf course that closed when the city took over the school property. The city’s park-maintenance budget will jump dramatically, on average about $150,000 in each of the next two years. The budget for parks staff will go up "by $202,810, or 43 percent in FY [fiscal year] 2015-16. The increase primarily relate [sic] to salaries for the new Stanton Central Park," the budget reports. A new, six-figure community-development director will spend part of her time managing the park.

"Saddling the people of Stanton with a $24 million park and all the other associated costs—a park that was sold to them as $6 million—is unconscionable," says Sal Sapien, the city’s former mayor and still a member of the county Democratic Party’s central committee. Sapien is also a longtime Shawver adversary. Recalling that he and other council members voted to censure Shawver in the early 1990s "for his antics," he says, "The council should censure him again."

The “gift” that will keep on giving: Residents of one of oc’s poorest cities will pay bankers $42 million in interest alone

The “gift” that will keep on giving: Residents of one of oc’s poorest cities will pay
bankers $42 million in interest alone Brian Feinzimer

CHAPTER 6: THE GOLDEN SHOVEL

Spiraling costs weren’t on the official brain at last summer’s Central Park groundbreaking, though. That June, with golden shovels held over their hard-hatted heads in triumph, city officials were talking about the future, about coming together, about the generosity of government, the noblesse oblige of City Hall.

"This is a gift to Stanton residents," declared Allan Rigg, the public works director. "I’m excited. It’s an exciting time in Stanton."

But as Register reporter Chris Haire deftly observed in his account of the groundbreaking, "Not everyone is thrilled about the impending [park] construction."

Haire talked with leaders of three churches renting space on the old school grounds. In a little-remembered footnote to the city’s $24 million Central Park, the churches are gone now.

"The churches received 45-day eviction notices. Because of their size—California Christ Community Church has 50 to 60 members—and lack of money, the churches are having trouble finding new locations," Haire reported.

"It was kind of a shock for us," Daniel Park, pastor of California Christ Community Church, told Haire. "I don’t even know if the city knew we were here."

Will Swaim is vice president of communications for the California Policy Center and founding editor and former publisher of OC Weekly.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — In The Dark — April 27, 2016

The OC Register‘s lead editorial shares my lament concerning the disappointing vote that SB 1251 received in Committee (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1251 and SB 1140 — April 12, 2016 april 12, 2016 john moorlach). It’s the first piece below. We’re working to have it reconsidered.

Then the OC Register makes an announcement that I need to correct, as I will not be in attendance. I already had two pre-existing events on the evening of May 12th and will not be participating in the forum provided in the second piece below. But, my staff will be involved to solicit input from the community.

As a bonus, I’m providing the third piece, which is from NorcalRecord.com. It addresses a topic that is slowly getting statewide attention since the OC Register covered it last week (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Other’s Senate Bills – 1286, 443, and 899 — April 18, 2016 april 18, 2016 john moorlach).

In the dark on debt
Unions oppose debt transparency bill.

What the voters don’t know can’t hurt them – that seems to be the attitude of public employee unions and Democrats in the Legislature when it comes to the state’s debt.

California has a red-ink problem – the “wall of debt,” Gov. Jerry Brown has called it, in justifying the fiscal constraint in the state budgets he presents. He deserves credit for making sure a small part of state revenue has gone to paying down debt the past couple of years, and for pushing through a rainy-day fund as a hedge against running up more debt in future downturns.

But public employee unions don’t like spending state money to pay down debt, because they’d rather it be spent to boost their salaries and already generous benefits and retirement plans.

That comes through loud and clear in their opposition to state Sen. John ‍Moorlach‍’‍s Senate Bill 1251, the California Financial Transparency Act. It failed to clear its first committee earlier this month – two Republicans voting for it and three Democrats against in the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee. The bill was granted reconsideration.

SB1251 proposes printing, in each state voter information pamphlet and hyperlinked to the Legislative Analyst’s Office website, totals for the state’s revenues and expenditures in the previous fiscal year along with debt totals for unfunded pension liabilities, unfunded retiree medical benefit liabilities, the infrastructure deficit and the outstanding bond debt.

It would behoove a voter to be familiar with stats like those when weighing how to vote on some ballot initiatives, no?

No, according to the letters of opposition that SB1251 has drawn from various unions and interest groups.

Opponents wrote that the information proposed for inclusion in the voter guide would be “unnecessary and superfluous and creates yet another impediment to any Californians actually studying and then turning out to vote on the issues that appear on the ballot.” They say many measures in statewide elections “will not have any relationship to revenues, bond debt, or retiree medical benefit levels,” and that the numbers would “add confusion to voters.”

That’s a pretty dim view of voters, to think that they will be confused and less likely to vote if confronted by basic financial information about state income, outgo and debt. Rather, voters would be better informed and empowered by these easily digestible numbers.

OUR TOWNS

LAGUNA HILLS

Sober-living homes: A regional town hall to discuss sober-living homes will be held 6-8 p.m. May 12 at the Laguna Hills Community Center, 25555 Alicia Parkway. The discussion will include state Sens. Patricia Bates and John ‍Moorlach, Assemblymen William Brough and Matthew Harper and other legal experts. Information: senator.bates  .

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Gender bias bill is a "gotcha" law for retail industry, opponent says

The California State Assembly’s reputation for passing a lot laws that often do not match their advertised efficiency once implemented is part of a debate behind Senate Bill 899 – a proposal that purports to end gender bias with equal pricing in the retail sector.

Opponents think it is more pointless legislation that will make business owners cut through more unnecessary red tape.

"I oppose SB 899 because I feel it is going to turn into a ‘gotcha’ law for the retail industry," said Kim Stone, executive director of the Civil Justice Association California (CJAC). "It uses the wrongful act of discrimination as a false pretense to put retailers in a catch-22 position."

That position is determining if a product or good has a higher price because of the intended gender of the purchaser, regardless if the buyer is that gender or not. This includes small discrepancies like comparing a pink razor meant for women versus a blue razor sold to men.

"I do not think there is a need for this bill," says Stone. "A consumer can see all of the different types of razors, make the price and product comparison, then make the decision for themselves."

SB 899 was introduced to the California State Senate on Jan. 21, and on April 18 the Standing Judiciary Committee recommended the bill pass with amendments made on March 31. On April 19 the bill was further amended and ordered for an additional reading before the full Senate.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) and co-authored by assembly member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) under the guise of fair retail pricing for female products. All five supporting votes in the Senate Judiciary were from Democrats and the lone dissenting vote was from Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa). Republican Sen. Joel Anderson was absent from the committee vote.

Advocates for the bill point to a study from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs that found that women pay an average of eight percent more for adult clothing, children’s clothing, toys and accessories, as well as senior and home care and personal care products.

Opponents of the bill believe it is needless pandering to females during an election year.

"This bill does not give any guidance to small business owners or to the retail industry. So how are they supposed to figure it out?" Stone said. "A gender discrimination lawsuit that can put somebody out of business is a heavy price to pay over a price different that could be literally pennies."

Stone also says that retailers might simply increase prices for all products instead of decreasing product prices for items made for women.

"Businesses are the backbone of our society and that has to be remembered when these types of laws are made," says Stone.

The California Retailers Association has come out against SB899, making the point that price differences could be due to higher costs of package design, development or marketing for certain women’s products. Additionally, the retailers association argues that size and price differences in product packaging and materials can lead to the cost differences when an item finally makes it to a store.

Proponents of SB 899 have not yet outlined the anticipated costs for either small businesses or nationwide retailers; opponents warn that retailers could be forced to change prices nationwide, both in store and for online shopping.

"Stores sell a whole host of products with a wide variety of prices," says Stone. "So for all of them to be set to the exact same price for products that are 90 percent alike is unreasonable."

While opponents like Stone and the California Retailers Association believe SB 899 is unreasonable, several California-based entities are supporting it, including the California Association of Retired Americans, California Public Interest Research Group and the Women’s Foundation of California.

SB 899 follows 1995’s California Assembly Bill 1100, the Gender Tax Repeal Act, which eliminated gender-based pricing for services like dry cleaning and haircuts.

Stone remains steadfastly opposed to the proposal, saying that it only benefits attorneys, not consumers.

"Lawyers are always the ultimate beneficiary of legislation like this, not the consumer," says Stone. "This is not justice for gender discrimination, it is setting random rules so that business owners can jump through even more hoops. Consumers are smart enough to make their own decisions without placing the livelihood of business owners at risk."

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MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1142 ADA Abuse — April 26, 2016

SB 1142 went before the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon. It was nice to have support from the media. Fox & Hounds provides the first piece and the OC Register, LA Daily News, and Press-Enterprise weigh in with a kind editorial in the second piece.

Regretfully, the bill was voted down by party line, 2-4, with Senator Hertzberg abstaining.

Yesterday, SB 269, a bill that I co-authored to address some ADA abuse, passed on the Senate Floor by a 38-0 vote. It goes to the Governor’s desk and must be signed within 12 days, as it was approved as an urgency bill. SB 269 is a fine bill, but it is a watered down solution to this lawsuit abuse dilemma.

Everyone on the Committee agreed that there was a problem. But, they also believed that previous legislation should have addressed the rogue law firms that file these ADA lawsuits (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1142 and SB 1273 — April 16, 2016 april 16, 2016 john moorlach).

I want to thank my two key witnesses, Rachelle Golden, an attorney from the city of Fresno, and Martha Perez, a restaurant owner from the city of Jackson. If you get a chance to see the bill presentation, you will find that they were amazing.

Maybe-Finally-Relief for Lawsuits Against Small Business

Joel Fox
By Joel FoxEditor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

It’s been a long time coming with much damage done to small business owners but legislators seem to be zeroing in on corrective measures to give business owners a chance to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) without facing destructive lawsuits.

Senator John Moorlach SB 1142, scheduled to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee today, “would provide that a defendant is not liable for statutory damages, costs, or plaintiff’s attorney’s fees for an alleged violation that is corrected within 120 days of service of a demand letter alleging the violation.”

SB 269 introduced by Democratic Senator Richard Roth and Republican Senator Andy Vidak would “establish a rebuttable presumption, for the purpose of an award of minimum statutory damages, that certain technical violations do not cause a plaintiff to experience difficulty, discomfort, or embarrassment, if specified conditions are met.”

I remember an article posted on this page in 2014 declaring hope that help may be on the way for small businesses that are often victimized by lawsuits for minor infractions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen and Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray filed the bills. The authors signed onto each other’s bills.

That hope expressed in 2014 may finally arrive and although well past time, would be welcomed by the small business community.

Recently, the San Jose Mercury News ran a story under the headline: “Serial ADA Lawsuit Filer Striking Bay Area.” The article reported that attorney Scott Johnson had filed thousands of ADA lawsuits in Northern California, which brought in millions of dollars in settlement and attorney’s fees.

That type of story is a familiar one to small businesses victimized in Southern California, as well. A little over a decade ago a Beverly Hills law firm, The Trevor Law Group, was accused of extortion by threatening to sue thousands of businesses for violating provisions of the Business and Professions Code. Finally, the state bar recommended that members of the firm be disbarred.

The law on infractions to the disability act as it currently stands could cost business owners a $4,000 civil penalty and attorney’s fees if violations are claimed. If the case drags on, the legal fees grow, which is why businesses often pay a demanded settlement fee that usually runs five figures. Some business owners call it, plainly, “a shakedown.”

Most small business owners are willing to fix any problems if given the opportunity. Looking over their shoulders at every customer or attorney who sees a pot of gold at the end of the regulation rainbow should not be a worry when the small businessperson is trying to fairly conduct their business.

It is good to see Democratic and Republican lawmakers coming together to offer a solution to this small business angst. Let’s hope reforms get to the governor’s desk and he signs them.

It’s time for California to curb enthusiasm for ADA lawsuit abuse

The Americans with Disabilities Act, adopted in 1990, was intended to prohibit discrimination against those with physical or mental impairments and improve access for the disabled to public accommodations.

Too often, however, it has been used to shake down businesses for minor violations — a sign affixed an inch too high or too low on a door, for example, or a disabled parking logo that is a little too faded or painted in the wrong shade of blue.

California is a particular magnet for frivolous ADA litigation, thanks to state law which mandates a minimum $4,000 penalty for each violation — no matter how small — plus the plaintiff’s attorney fees. The state is home to about 12 percent of the country’s disabled population, but accounts for a whopping 40 percent of ADA lawsuits nationwide. Its disability access lawsuits were one of the main reasons the American Tort Reform Foundation once again named California the No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole” in the nation last year.

Several legislative proposals would reform the system simply by requiring the aggrieved party to submit their complaints about alleged ADA violations to business owners in writing, and then allowing businesses a reasonable amount of time, usually 90 or 120 days, to fix any problems before civil litigation could be filed. Such federal bills include H.R. 241, the ACCESS Act of 2015, from Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, and H.R. 4719, the COMPLI Act, from Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.

At the state level, Senate Bill 1142 has been introduced by Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, and Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, has proposed SB 269. Both bills have been named among the California Chamber of Commerce’s 12 “job creator” bills. Sen. Roth’s similar SB 251 sailed through the Legislature last year by votes of 40-0 in the Senate and 70-6 in the Assembly, but it was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who claimed a provision offering businesses a tax credit to encourage proactive compliance fixes was too costly. That provision has been removed from SB 269.

Nitpicky standards about whether a sink or a mirror is a fraction of an inch off or an “outdated” sign is the wrong shape or color go well beyond the original intentions of the ADA. Just ask the San Ramon gas station owner who was forced to install a shield under a bathroom sink to prevent burns to the legs of someone in a wheelchair — even though the bathroom does not have hot water.

These regulations cost business owners tens of thousands of dollars for minor repairs, killing jobs and entire businesses in the process. Legislators should explore eliminating some of the most restrictive regulations, particularly those that do not actually affect accessibility, and grandfathering in those who complied with older versions of the law, so that businesses do not fall prey to what amounts to extortion based on ever-changing building codes and other regulations.

In the meantime, it is only fair that businesses are afforded the opportunity to correct violations, which will dissuade frivolous lawsuits while encouraging corrections for legitimate claims.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Opposition — April 22, 2016

It was another busy and win-some-lose-some week in Sacramento. Let’s start with a win.

SB 1273 went from successful passage in the Senate Committee on Health to the Senate Floor yesterday morning (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1142 and SB 1273 — April 16, 2016 april 16, 2016 john moorlach). There it passed without opposition, 38-0. I know it’s a little self-serving, but the Voice of OC and the Orange County Breeze provided our press release and is the first piece below. See my introduction of the bill on the Senate Floor HERE.

On Wednesday, SB 1141, the Caltrans Pilot Program, was heard by the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SBs 1141 and 1253 — April 4, 2016 april 4, 2016 john moorlach). That morning, the OC Register provided the editorial in the second piece below.

Regretfully, after hearing testimony from two opposition witnesses who were representatives of public employee unions, the Committee voted against my bill. The major argument? What about the possibility of layoffs at these two counties? Really? Caltrans is already overstaffed, but 54 percent of its workforce is at or near retirement age. By the time this bill would be fully implemented, attrition would have already capture many of the extraneous employees near retirement without requiring a single lay-off.

Last Monday, the Public Employment and Retirement Committee voted against SB 1251 because they didn’t think that audited financial data exposing our massive costs and liabilities should be easily accessible, on the website of the non-partisan (and highly respected) Legislative Analyst Office. This is despite the information already appearing in reports on both the Governor’s and Controller’s websites, for which our data would be hyperlinked. Why is that a problem? Apparently, within our simplified website, there wouldn’t be enough context. Huh? The committee members did vote to allow for a reconsideration of the bill, which is a customary option when requested by the author (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1251 and SB 1140 — April 12, 2016 april 12, 2016 john moorlach). However, this bill was referred to 4 committees – a treatment reserved only for a few “select” bills every year – so despite my best efforts to take a few recommended clarifying amendments made by one of the members of the committee, it died. The LA Daily News and San Gabriel Valley News provide an editorial on the awkwardness of the votes in opposition in the third piece below.

Before Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, I pulled SB 1253, LLCs for Real Estate Brokers, (see the previous link above) from the agenda. I will resubmit this bill next year. Although there is opposition to this idea, there are many national firms that have the LLC status operating in California. Consequently, this topic needs a robust discussion.

SB 1248, CEQA lawsuit abuse, was killed in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. This bill was focused on making plaintiffs and their financial backers disclose themselves when a CEQA lawsuit is filed. Full disclosure is required in different areas of California law. And, knowing who your true accuser is would explain the nature of the case. The abuse? Unions filing CEQA lawsuits in order to have construction companies abide by project labor agreements (see MOORLACH UPDATE — PLA — October 29, 2009 october 29, 2009 john moorlach). The bill was considered "too dangerous" and lost along party lines. Read my press release and see the hearing video HERE.

Of course, I had my votes in opposition to bills. SB 1317 went before the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, on which I sit. The selected details are provided in the fourth piece below from the Daily Republic.

Next week I introduce SB 1142 to the Senate Judiciary Committee (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1142 and SB 1273 — April 16, 2016 april 16, 2016 john moorlach). The Daily Pilot provides the heads up in the selected portions in the fifth piece below.

The week included a funny diversion. The LA Times, in their piece titled "Lawmakers advance gun control measures in response to San Bernardino massacre," erroneously gave me credit for a quote from Sen. Jeff Stone. It was corrected online. I have not seen the correction in the dead tree version. For the fun, see

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-gun-control-bills-20160419-story.html. Errors like this have reverberations, as it gets duplicated elsewhere (see

http://bearingarms.com/california-lawmakers-push-gun-mageddon-citizens-buy-guns/).

Gmail is also getting touchy about my sending out e-mails to my subscribers. We tried a different service earlier in the week, with mixed results. Another service was tried later in the week and it failed completely. I’m hoping this catch-up e-mail will go out without a hiccup. If not, I’ll continue to look for an alternate transmission methodology.

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Mental Health Bill to Make Funds More Flexible Passes With Unanimous Vote
Senate Bill 1273 Grants Greater Flexibility in Use of Mental Health Services Act Funds

(Sacramento) –Today, the Senate passed legislation by Senator Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa)Senate Bill 1273 – with a 38-0 vote that gives county personnel greater flexibility over the use of Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funds for outpatient crisis stabilization services. The bill is co-authored by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) and other legislators.

"I am greatly encouraged that the Senate recognized the importance and critical need for SB 1273 today. SB 1273 will empower and equip counties with another valuable tool to approach the mental health crisis we are facing," Moorlach said. "This bill benefits our police officers, first responders and our emergency rooms that have been over-burdened."

Currently, Orange County just has ten beds for emergency mental health crisis situations to serve the county’s 3.1 million residents. Consequently, public safety officers must, many times, take on the role of transporters rather than first responders. The simple clarification provided by SB 1273 provides not only Orange County, but other counties up and down the state, the flexibility to better fund outpatient care, as well as help ensure that patients in mental crisis can receive prompt, therapeutic care at proper facilities, rather than the hospital emergency room.

"I am honored to have so many wonderful health care providers and organizations in support, as well as the endorsement of former Senator Darrell Steinberg – the author of Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act and founder of the Steinberg Institute, as he understands the necessity," Moorlach said.

SB 1273 now goes to the Assembly. The bill is supported by the Steinberg Institute, County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California, California Psychiatric Association, American College of Emergency Physicians-California Chapter, California Emergency Nurses Association, St. Joseph Hoag Health System, St. Joseph Hospital, Hoag Memorial Presbyterian, St. Jude Medical Center, Tenet Health, Orange County Medical Association, California State Association of Counties, Urban Counties of California, County of Orange, City of Newport Beach, League of California Cities-Orange County, California State Sheriff’s Association, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Orange County Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association and others.

For more information on SB 1273, CLICK HERE.

Voice of OC posts press releases to provide readers with information directly from organizations. We do not edit or rewrite press releases, and encourage readers to contact the originator of a given release for more information. To submit a press release email pressreleases

A better fix for fixing California’s roads

Last month, these pages discussed a State Auditor’s report that criticized the California Department of Transportation’s maintenance division for its “weak cost controls,” lack of financial planning, inefficient funding allocations and inability to track responses to service requests. Now a Legislative Analyst’s Office assessment of highway repair needs similarly decries a lack of accountability and performance measures.

The LAO’s analysis also acknowledges the persistent underfunding of the state’s road infrastructure. “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 LAO concluded. “This is significantly higher than can be addressed through the existing funding of about $1.6 billion annually for these purposes.”

The immediate needs are even greater, as the LAO estimated the state would need to spend roughly $5.5 billion for highway repair programs in fiscal year 2016-17, including contributions to reduce the maintenance backlog.

Despite having among the highest gas taxes in the country, California’s highway system ranked 45th among the states in the Reason Foundation’s 2014 Annual Highway Report. According to the report, the state has the second-highest maintenance spending per mile of state-controlled roads and the fourth-highest administrative spending rate.

California’s transportation system, and particularly its roads, are consistently given short shrift in favor of fanciful environmental projects and other legislative pet projects and boondoggles like the high-speed rail project, which, incidentally, just won the Oakland-based Independent Institute’s first California Golden Fleece Award “for its lack of transparency and history of misleading the public about key details” of the project.

As with innumerable other services, privatizing the roads would be the best way to offer them the most cheaply and efficiently. We don’t expect the state to agree, but it should at least competitively bid highway maintenance to the private sector to save money, minimize bureaucratic bloat and maximize accountability. Barring this, Senate Bill 1141, by Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, creates a pilot program to allow two counties, selected later, to control road maintenance funds now handled by Caltrans. It would offer greater flexibility to local governments, who are more accountable to their citizens than far-removed state bureaucracies.

How is knowing state debt totals bad for California voters?

What the voters don’t know can’t hurt them — that seems to be the attitude of public employee unions and Democrats in the Legislature when it comes to the state’s debt.

California has a red-ink problem — the “wall of debt,” Gov. Jerry Brown has called it, in justifying the fiscal constraint in the state budgets he presents. He deserves credit for making sure a small part of state revenue has gone to paying down debt the past couple of years, and for pushing through a rainy-day fund as a hedge against running up more debt in future downturns.

But public employee unions don’t like spending state money to pay down debt, because they’d rather it be spent to boost their salaries and already generous benefits and retirement plans.

That comes through loud and clear in their opposition to state Sen. John Moorlach’s Senate Bill 1251, the California Financial Transparency Act. It failed to clear its first committee last week — two Republicans voting for it and three Democrats against in the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee. The bill was granted reconsideration.

Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, is a former Orange County treasurer and supervisor, and the only certified public accountant in the Senate. He’s a numbers guy, and wants to share some of the state’s key fiscal numbers with voters before they go to the polls — where often they are confronted with voting for or against bond measures that would increase California’s indebtedness.

SB 1251 proposes printing, in each state voter information pamphlet and hyperlinked to the Legislative Analyst’s Office website, totals for the state’s revenues and expenditures in the previous fiscal year along with debt totals for unfunded pension liabilities, unfunded retiree medical benefit liabilities, the infrastructure deficit and the outstanding bond debt.

It would behoove a voter to be familiar with stats like those when weighing how to vote on some ballot initiatives, no?

No, according to the letters of opposition that SB 1251 has drawn from various unions and interest groups — among them the California Professional Firefighters, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, California School Employees Association and the Service Employees International Union.

Opponents wrote that the information proposed for inclusion in the voter guide would be “unnecessary and superfluous and creates yet another impediment to any Californians actually studying and then turning out to vote on the issues that appear on the ballot.” They say many measures in statewide elections “will not have any relationship to revenues, bond debt, or retiree medical benefit levels,” and that the numbers would “add confusion to voters … .”

That’s a pretty dim view of voters, to think that they will be confused and less likely to vote if confronted by basic financial information about state income, outgo and debt. Rather, voters would be better informed and empowered by these easily digestible numbers.

But we take the opponents’ point that many ballot measures have little to do with these financial facts.

So we suggest to the author a simple amendment to his bill: The list of stats should be printed not in the front of the voter pamphlet, but inside with the fiscal analysis of any ballot measure that proposes adding to the state’s debt tally or increasing state revenues.

Solano County

Groundwater regulatory bill advances

By Todd R. Hansen

FAIRFIELD — A Sen. Lois Wolk bill that faces opposition from the counties, the cities and agriculture passed the Finance and Governance Committee on a 5-2 vote this week.

The bill passed the committee Wednesday with Republican Sens. Janet Nguyen, the committee vice chairwoman, andJohn M. W. Moorlach dissenting. It had previously passed the Natural Resource and Water Committee on a 6-2 vote.

Trump to Moorlach aide: You’re hired

By Barbara Venezia

And in other Moorlach news, business owners around the state who have been subjected to attorneys bringing frivolous Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits against them, could see an end to this practice withMoorlach’s proposed Senate Bill 1142.

The bill will be heard April 26 in the Senate Judiciary Committee and will address these predatory lawsuit abuses, where attorneys target a business with even the slightest ADA violation and then basically shake it down for money.

Moorlach’s bill proposes allowing businesses 120 days to cure violations before any civil action can be filed.

The senator feels this would weed out "serial attorneys and plaintiffs, who are only bringing these claims for a quick payout," he told the Mercury News. "There is no point to these standards if a business is sued out of existence, if it could not abide by them."

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Other’s Senate Bills – 1286, 443, and 899 — April 18, 2016

In Sunday’s edition, the OC Register had two pieces on legislation being debated in Sacramento. Sometimes it feels like little attention is paid to the state legislature by our local newspapers, so I’m excited to see both of them.

The first is from the Commentary section. Being new to the Senate, I do not co-author very often. And, it is very rare that I would co-author a bill that is being carried by someone on the other side of the aisle.  But, after working on establishing the Orange County Office of Independent Review and becoming familiar during that process with terms like “code of silence,” I decided to accept Sen. Leno’s invitation to participate.

For a sampling of my history in this area, go to MOORLACH UPDATE — Property Tax Due Date — April 10, 2013 John Moorlach and read the column by Michael Capaldi, titled “Moorlach’s Mad Motivation,” and the OC Register pieces, titled “D.A. says deputies’ actions were ‘shocking and unacceptable’ – But Rackauckas says 9-month grand jury probe of jail beating death did not find evidence of criminal wrongdoing by sheriff’s personnel” and “Five placed on leave in wake of report on jails – Acting sheriff calls in FBI to look at jails; supervisor says report shows ‘clear case of human failure.’”

SB 1286 addresses peace officer misconduct.  To improve our public safety agencies and to enhance trust by the public in these agencies, making the proposed legislative changes is the appropriate course to take.

The column also deals with SB 443.  I voted for this bill on the Senate Floor on June 3rd of last year.  I have been consistent on asset forfeiture with my votes as a County Supervisor.  I do not condone it until the party has been convicted of the crime.  SB 443 failed on the Assembly Floor last year (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Bill Killer — October 10, 2015 John Moorlach).

This week SB 899 came before the Judiciary Committee.  I have never had a conversation with anyone about the subject of women paying more for certain products than men.  I must confess that my first interaction on this topic was Tuesday afternoon.  I expressed my concern that no one is forced to purchase certain products.

Where prices and fees are discriminatory, like for certain medical appointments, then I concur with the intent of the bill.  I am sure the concern is genuine, but isn’t Sacramento already piling enough onto our business communities?  I fear for the many retailers that will shut their doors as a result of the recent minimum wage increase, let alone a new pricing police.  This is the subject of the front-page, top-of-the-fold, story which is the second piece below.

The third piece is from CalPensions, which is also provided by PUBLIC CEO, on the need for pension transparency.  My SB 1251 is trying to do this (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Tim Clark — April 13, 2016).

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Some in GOP yield to Sacramento’s secrecy lobby

By STEVEN GREENHUT / Contributing columnist

Sacramento – In one of my favorite “Far Side” comic strips, the first panel offers what people typically say to dogs: “OK Ginger I’ve had it. You stay out of the garbage! Understand Ginger?” The next panel translates what dogs actually hear: “Blah blah Ginger, blah blah blah Ginger.”

I think of that comic sometimes when I’m stuck on the floor of the state Assembly or Senate and hear a Republican legislator giving a speech about “freedom.” All I hear is, “Blah blah Constitution, blah, blah limited-government.” My comprehension skills are better than the average mutt’s, but I’m trained to know blather when I hear it.

On two of the clearest liberty issues to come before the Legislature in recent years, most Republicans have sided with big-government secrecy. Those issues are back this year in the form of Senate Bill 1286, which calls for transparency by California’s law enforcement agencies, and SB443, which reins in some of the government’s most corrupt property-taking tactics.

Because of a 2006 state Supreme Court decision, Californians have had virtually no access to information about police officers who may have engaged in pattern of misbehaviors or who have been involved in multiple shootings. In Copley Press v. Superior Court, the San Diego Union-Tribune sought access to the disciplinary hearing of a San Diego deputy sheriff who appealed his termination.

The far-reaching ruling blocked the public’s access to information that previously was available and that remains widely accessible in most other states. A 2010 report by the Investigative Fund found that 25 of 27 Fresno police officers who were involved in repeated shootings remained on the force. TheCopley decision meant the public had no right to learn who they were. That can allow bad officers to fester within a department.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, stood up for accountability, while Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Riverside County, did not. “This is not an anti-law-enforcement bill,” Leno said. “This bill is not opening all personnel files for public consumption. It’s an attempt to rebuild community and police trust through greater public access to sustained charges of egregious law-enforcement conduct.”

Perhaps the nation wouldn’t be facing so much turmoil over police use-of-force issues if there were fewer union prerogatives and more accountability. The bill recently was amended to deal solely with public records (and not personnel hearings), but even that won’t mollify the “secrecy lobby.”

“People need to be proven guilty before we disclose their identity and potentially enrage the public,” Sen. Stone said.

However, members of myriad professions have their disciplinary proceedings open to the public. We mere citizens could have allegations publicly raised against us (in a court proceeding, for instance) before any finding of guilt.

On the encouraging side, Sen. John Moorlach is a co-sponsor of SB1286. The Costa Mesa Republican also supports reform of the asset-forfeiture process by which police agencies grab the property of citizens who have never been convicted, or even accused, of a crime. The process was designed to battle drug kingpins but has morphed into something despicable.

“The tactic has turned into an evil itself, with the corruption it engendered among government and law enforcement coming to clearly outweigh any benefits,” two U.S. Justice Department officials, who developed the program in the 1980s, wrote in a 2014 Washington Post column. New Mexico’s governor last year limited the practice after a city attorney was taped bragging: “We could be czars. We could own the city. We could be in the real estate business.”

California’s current law has some fairly tough restrictions on these takings, so local agencies partner with the feds and operate under more lenient federal laws. Then they split the loot. SB443 would shut down that loophole. Last year, the bill had widespread support, but then police agencies – fearing a loss of revenue – began arm-twisting at the Capitol.

Only a handful of Republicans held firm in the final vote, with Orange County putting in the best showing. Assemblymen Bill Brough, R-Dana Point, and Matt Harper, R-Huntington Beach, were two of only four Republicans in the Assembly who voted “yes” on a bill that did little more than uphold the Fifth Amendment’s requirement for due process.

Politicians from the party of Reagan and Lincoln should instinctively know the dangers of giving government officials unaccountable power. That so few of them do is a reminder that, when many of them talk about liberty, all the rest of us should hear is “blah, blah, blah.”

Steven Greenhut is Western region director of the R Street Institute. He was a Register editorial writer from 1998-2009. He is based in Sacramento. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

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‘Pink tax’ coming under fire

Women’s products costlier than men’s, research shows.

By TERI SFORZA

That adorable bike helmet for little boys, with the stuffed shark protruding from the top? It cost $14.99 at Target.

That adorable bike helmet for little girls, with the stuffed unicorn protruding from the top? It cost $27.99 at Target.

And so it goes for toys, clothing, shampoo and even adult diapers, according to a recent government investigation that is adding momentum to a push to outlaw so-called gender pricing on a wide array of consumer products in California.

Across several industries, items targeted for female consumers cost 7 percent more on average than nearly identical products marketed for male consumers, according to the examination of online and in-store prices by New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

“(P)rice conscious female shoppers may not know that, for discounts, they need look no further than the men’s department,” the report said.

Consumer advocates call it the “pink tax,” a pricing disparity that follows women from cradle to grave and costs them thousands of dollars over the course of their lifetimes. The mounting data on the pink tax have become Exhibit 1 in a Sacramento drive to prohibit such differential pricing.

Senate Bill 899, sponsored by Consumer Federation of California, would extend the state’s ban on gender-based pricing for services (haircuts, laundry, dry cleaning) to products (toys, clothing, personal care items).

The bill, supported by a coalition of women’s, consumer and civil rights groups, sailed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 5-1 vote last week. The only dissenter was Orange County Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa.

“I believe we have a free market, and I believe that we’re not forced to purchase certain products,” Moorlach said. “You charge what the market will bear. If you don’t want to buy it, you don’t buy it. In retail, you price it for profit – supply and demand holds.”

OPPOSITION

The business-friendly California Chamber of Commerce has branded the bill a “job killer” and is pushing for its defeat. The California Retailers Association said it’s unworkable and will result in confusion, inaccurate pricing and increased costs.

Opponents also include the California Grocers Association, the New Car Dealers Association, the Toy Industry Association and the Civil Justice Association of California, which fears that the bill would open the floodgates to lawsuits, which would be consumers’ main avenue of redress under the bill.

The retailers’ group argues that product pricing depends on many, sometimes invisible, factors. They can include the costs of design, development, labor, packaging, shipping, tariffs, marketing and merchandising. And those costs often differ between products targeted for men and women, the association says.

The group’s members, including department, drug and grocery stores, don’t discriminate based on a person’s gender, said spokeswoman Margaret Gladstein.

“Do we price different items differently based on a variety of other factors? Absolutely.

“From store to store and day to day, prices change,” Gladstein said. “You could go to a Target and find that pink scooter at one price, then go to another Target down the road and find that same scooter on sale, based on the inventory and products that that store has available.

“What we’re trying to do is provide our customers with as many choices and as many products as possible. They can choose the least expensive option, or go to another store.”

Opponents warn that the bill, which would permit consumers to recover $4,000 in civil penalties for each pink vs. blue violation, would lead to a rash of legal demand letters from opportunists.

They draw ominous comparisons to what critics have called “legal extortion” encouraged by the federal American Disabilities Act. Using the act, they argue, attorneys have collected thousands of dollars in settlements from businesses to forgo lawsuits over lack of handicapped parking spaces or wheelchair access. Businesses in Brea and elsewhere grappled with such threats in recent years.

The California Chamber of Commerce argues that SB899 leaves retailers and grocers with stark choices: try to identify products specifically targeted at males and females and re-price substantially similar goods to an equal, higher amount; or simply increase the price of all substantially similar goods to the same, higher amount.

“Neither of these options are beneficial to the consumer,” the chamber wrote recently to lawmakers.

SUPPORT

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, said the pink tax is unfair and discriminatory and lawmakers must fix it.

“If this law is passed, it will change practices in California that will affect people’s lives, and will affect people’s pocketbooks, and will affect the products that they buy,” he said.

Hueso held two disposable razors aloft at the Senate Judiciary Hearing. Each was purchased in the same store at the same time, he said. Each was made by the same manufacturer, was of the same brand, and was identical in every respect – except that the one made for men was blue, and the one made for women was pink, he added.

“The men’s was $7.99 for a 12-pack,” Hueso said. “The women’s was $12.99. That’s a $5 markup, for the exact same product.”

At the same time, he said, he is working with the business groups to refine SB899’s language.

His bill already has been amended to clarify that similar razors of different brands would not have to be price-matched, but that the same razors from the same manufacturer of the same brand would.

Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation, said with exasperation that a Levi’s One Pocket Boyfriend Shirt has been marketed to women for $78. Their boyfriends, he said, could buy a nearly identical shirt for $48.

“Add the word ‘boyfriend’ and put the shirt on a woman, and the price goes up by $30,” Holober said. “Businesses have figured out, through a lot of research, how to extract extra dollars by giving products a veneer of being designed especially for girls or women. But that’s not right.”

Supporters of the Hueso bill include the American Civil Liberties Union of California, California Public Interest Research Group, the Older Women’s League Sacramento Capitol Chapter and Women’s Foundation of California.

“The combination of gender-based differences in consumer prices and the gender wage gap is a double-edged sword: Women face higher expenses than men and at the same time are paid less,” the Equal Rights Advocates group wrote in a letter of support to lawmakers.

“Women working full-time in California make an overall average of 84 cents on the dollar when compared to full-time working men, and the wage gaps are far worse for women of color. … This means that on top of losing $39 billion a year to the gender wage gap, Californian women and girls are collectively spending in excess of $41 billion more than boys and men to purchase things that everyone needs.”

NEXT STEPS

The bill will advance to the full Senate and, if approved by the full body, will move to the Assembly. If it prevails there, it will proceed to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Hueso said the bill is the logical extension of California’s Gender Tax Repeal Act, a 1995 law making it illegal to discriminate against women in the pricing of services. It prohibits a dry cleaner from charging more to press a plain white shirt for a woman than to press a plain white shirt for a man. But the dry cleaner can charge more to press a shirt with ruffles or bows or beads, as it requires extra work.

That law hasn’t unleashed a flood of lawsuits, Hueso said. Supporters and opponents could point to fewer than five over the course of more than 20 years.

It’s time to include goods in the pink tax ban, Hueso said. “This bill will provide an additional tool to individuals fighting for their civil rights, to combat gender pricing of consumer goods,” he said.

Contact the writer: tsforza@ocregister.com

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Pushing the case for cost-cutting pension reform

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A leading advocate of the view that public pensions are alarmingly underfunded thinks rising costs could, in the next five to ten years, push some cities into bankruptcy and some states into insolvency.

Joshua Rauh, a Stanford University finance professor, said in a new study issued by the Hoover Institution that 564 state and local pensions systems reported a “net pension liability” of $1.2 trillion under new government accounting rules.

But Rauh believes the debt is nearly three times larger, $3.4 trillion, because the pension systems, even under the new rules, use an overly optimistic annual earnings forecast, 7.4 percent, for investments often expected to pay two-thirds of future pensions.

Rauh used a 3 percent risk-free Treasury bond rate. That not only follows the basic principles of finance, he said, but is more realistic given low interest rates, the failure of pension funding levels to recover after a major bull market, and other factors.

“More and more money is going to have to go into these funds, and you are going to see more and more bankruptcies along the likes of Detroit, San Bernardino, Stockton, California,” Rauh told CNBC last week. “And over a five- to ten-year horizon, I would expect there to be a number — many, many more cities going bankrupt and many states that are insolvent.”

Most state and local governments in the nationwide study contribute 7.5 percent of their revenue to pensions, Rauh’s study concluded, but need to contribute 17.5 percent to keep pension liabilities from rising.

“Even contributions of this magnitude would not begin to pay down the trillions of dollars of unfunded legacy liabilities,” he said. None of the “50 worst cities” listed in the study, ranked by additional contributions needed to prevent more debt, are in California.

An oncoming wave of bankruptcies may be an extreme view, not to mention a 3 percent long-term earnings forecast. But a Citigroup study last month shares Rauh’s view that exposing “hidden” pension debt is a first step toward public pension reform.

Citigroup estimates that the total unfunded government pension liabilities for 20 industrialized countries is a “staggering $78 trillion,” nearly double the $44 trillion they have reported.

“Making these contingent liabilities more clear or complete is the first step towards further pension reform to address the increased risks from a rising dependency ratio (retirees vs. active workers) and a rising cost burden of public pension systems,” said Citigroup.

Last week, a state Senate committee rejected a bill requiring the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office to create an internet website listing major state debt, including pensions and retiree health care, that also would be shown on a page in the ballot pamphlet.

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said his “California Financial Transparency Act” (SB 1251) would give voters “basic reliable nonpartisan financial information” as they consider bonds, spending measures, and candidates.

Moorlach, an accountant and financial planner known for predicting that risky investments would lead to the Orange County bankruptcy in 1994, created a website to show what the basic financial information might look like.

The bill, rejected on a party-line vote, was opposed by public employee unions who argued that ballot measures have a nonpartisan financial analysis and that the broad debt numbers have no direct relation to ballot measures, lack context and might confuse voters.

Pension debt can seem distant, with most bills not due for decades, and unpredictable or even unknowable as the reported unfunded liability swings up and down with the stock market and the yield from huge investment funds.

The bite taken from employer budgets by annual contributions to the pension funds is less abstract. Some call it “crowd-out” as growing pension costs reduce the money available for basic government programs, services and personnel.

Stephen Eide of the Manhattan Institute issued a California Crowd-Out” study last year that found, among other things, government staffing in December 2014 remained 8 percent below the December 2007 level, while private-sector jobs were 2.4 percent higher.

The “crowd-out” from pension and retiree health care costs was an issue as voters in San Diego and San Jose overwhelmingly approved cost-cutting pension reforms four years ago.

The ballot pamphlet argument in San Diego said Proposition B means more money for “fixing potholes and street repairs, maintaining infrastructure, restoring library hours, and re-opening park and recreation facilities.”

In San Jose, the ballot argument for Measure B said: “Retirement costs consume more than 20% of the general fund and are projected by independent actuaries to increase for years. This is unsustainable.”

With “spiking,” pension excess becomes even less abstract and gets a face. For example, an Orinda-Moraga fire chief, who retired in 2009 at age 50 with a pension much larger than his salary, told the Wall Street Journal he was a “poster child” for spiking but didn’t make the rules.

Last September, the Contra Costa pension board voted to reduce Peter Nowicki’s initial pension, $240,923 a year, to an amount, $172,818, that is below his final base pay, $193,281.

A review by a law firm found that Nowicki, with two contract amendments, inflated the final pay used to calculate his pension, mainly by cashing out unused vacation time with smaller amounts from holiday, terminal and retroactive base pay.

Manipulating final pay to improperly boost pensions is a common spiking method, surfacing sporadically in well-publicized incidents over the past half century. The two big state pension systems, CalPERS and CalSTRS, both have anti-spiking units.

Implied pension excess surfaces in several ways. The Los Angeles Times reported this month that at least 17 legislators including Moorlach are “double-dipping,” collecting their state salaries and a public pension from another government job or office.

The “$100,000 pension club” of retirees with big pensions was posted on the internet a decade ago by a reform group led by Marcia Fritz. Another group, Transparent California, now has a searchable database of state and local government pay and pensions.

“The main thing is to engage people when you talk about pensions, because it’s boring to people,” Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility said in 2011. “When we put the list up, it was the same reaction as ours — unbelievable.”

Whether through debt, crowd-out or excess, the public seems to have received a message about pensions from somewhere.

A statewide Public Policy Institute of California poll issued in January 2014 found that 85 percent of likely voters think the amount of money spent on public pensions is somewhat of a problem and 73 percent support switching new hires to a 401(k) plan.

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

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

MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1142 and SB 1273 — April 16, 2016

The Mercury News recently had an excellent article on the subject of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). It so clearly laid out the abuses currently impacting business owners from legal extortion efforts that we sent out an "In Case You Missed It (ICYMI)" e-mail to let our subscribers know (see http://district37.cssrc.us/content/icymi-serial-ada-lawsuit-filer-striking-bay-area).

The Mercury News has done a follow up article. It is the first piece below and was also provided in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the Marin Independent Journal, and the
Milpitas Post.

SB 1142 will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where I serve as Vice Chair, on April 26. The number of individual business owners that I have talked to also share the angst found in the article. This lawsuit abuse must be stopped (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1142 and WSJH — April 8, 2016 april 8, 2016 john moorlach).

The second piece is from EdSource and provides a glimpse of what my Thursdays look like. I serve on the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee Subcommittee One on Education, where I also serve as Vice Chair (see http://sbud.senate.ca.gov/subcommittee1). It meets right after the close of the Senate Floor Session on Thursday mornings. It is one of the reasons I customarily take late flights back to the District on Thursdays, as the meetings can be lengthy. This week’s meeting is the topic of the article. As you can see, I do ask questions.

And the final piece is our press release concerning SB 1273, which was approved by the Senate Health Committee Wednesday, with eight of the nine members in support and one laying off until further clarification of a concern (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1273 — March 3, 2016 march 3, 2016 john moorlach and the related links). It now heads to the Senate Floor.

The Voice of OC was kind enough to provide our press release on the great news. I want to thank everyone who came to the Committee meeting and spoke in support of the bill. The length of the line of supporters nearly had me in tears. I am very passionate about this bill and have been very honored with the many who have co-authored, including Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D – Van Nuys), and those who have written letters in support. Thank you!

Legislation aims to curb serial ADA lawsuits

By Matthias Gafni

SAN JOSE — State and federal lawmakers have launched several pieces of legislation aimed squarely at people they believe are manipulating well-intentioned discrimination laws to pad their own bank accounts.

Legislators from across the state reached out to this newspaper after an article on Scott Johnson, a disabled attorney who has sued thousands of small businesses across Northern California, often over minor violations such as signs posted in the wrong color or doors with slightly too much resistance. Two state bills are snaking their way through Sacramento, while two pieces of federal legislation are also in the works.

They all look to create a window of opportunity for business owners to make minor fixes before being sued and having to pay minimum damages of $4,000 per violation, as well as attorney fees for themselves and the plaintiff.

Last month, U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, introduced the COMPLI Act, which would allow businesses 90 days after notification of violation to reach compliance. The bill also targets "high-frequency litigants," such as Johnson.

"I have heard from numerous local businesses who were forced to shut down, lay off employees, pay out large settlements, or change locations because of repeated lawsuits and threats of lawsuits that leave these businesses with little to no financial resources or time to fix the problem and become compliant," McNerney said.

Dennis and Shawn Wuollet own one of those affected businesses. The father and son have served up quick, fresh Mexican food favorites at Taco Bravo in Campbell for 45 years. But they have been sued not once, but twice, by Johnson in the past two years and worry they may have to shut down entirely.

"It’s a scam, and we got caught up in the scam," said Dennis Wuollet, a 70-year-old Campbell resident. "It ruined my life, it did. It ruined my life."

In 2014, Johnson sued the Wuollets’ second Taco Bravo on Snell Avenue in San Jose for various violations. The owner of the building and the Wuollets paid a $30,000 settlement, and Wuollet said the payout left him unable to afford the fixes, so he closed the restaurant, laying off about 15 workers.

"It’s been two years, and now I’m just catching up to my bills. … It cost so much money to open up a second store," Dennis Wuollet said.

And now, at the original Taco Bravo at 1950 South Bascom Ave. in Campbell, Johnson has sued him a second time, along with the neighboring Wienerschnitzel. The two restaurants share parking spaces, and Wuollet is hoping his store is not the main target.

"I just think he’s suing us again because he got money from us before," Wuollet said. "I’m still hoping it’s not true. If it is true, it’ll wipe me out. I’ll just go home and quit."

Neither Johnson nor his attorney returned requests for comment.

On Wednesday, the California Assembly Appropriations Committee approved Senate Bill 269, which would provide businesses relief from ADA predatory lawsuits.

"The ADA serves the right purpose — to increase and ensure access for all Americans," said Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon, said in an email. "But it’s a shame when people take laws intended to protect the vulnerable and turn them into their own personal piggy bank."

State Senate Bill 1142 and SB 1406 also would address the issue.

"Rather than discouraging people from bringing claims under these disability access laws, allowing for a time to cure weeds out serial attorneys and plaintiffs who are only bringing these claims for a quick payout," said state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, who introduced SB 1142, in an email. "There is no point to these standards if a business is sued out of existence if it could not abide by them."

California has 40 percent of the nation’s ADA lawsuits but only 12 percent of the country’s disabled population, according to U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, who has co-sponsored the ACCESS Act of 2015, which also seeks protections for business owners.

U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, who has businesses in his district that have been sued by the serial litigants, has been following the issue.

"While the ADA has been and continues to be a vital tool in achieving equal access for the disability community, we must be careful the protections it offers are not abused," he said in a statement. "I appreciate that Congressmen Calvert and McNerney have introduced legislation to address what they see as problems with the ADA, and I look forward to working with them to ensure that we can limit abuse but still maintain the ability of the disabled to achieve equality under the law."

After Ajay Dhillon, of Pleasanton, was sued at some of his Long John Silver restaurants in the Sacramento area by Johnson, he sold them in 2011 and moved his business to Texas, he said.

David Shaffer, who operates his own insurance agency in Walnut Creek, said that when he tore his Achilles tendon last month and was on crutches for weeks, it changed his perspective on disabled access.

"If business owners are found to be in violation, they should be required to experience what it’s like to be disabled and reflect on what it’s like to get around their businesses," he said. "I don’t think people are sensitive to what it’s like to being disabled."

For Taco Bravo’s Shawn Wuollet, 48, he said new laws need to give businesses the opportunity to make such fixes.

"It’s just gonna continue happening unless something is done," he said. "People will keep going out of business, people will keep losing their jobs."

Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.

EARLY LEARNING

Legislators reject Brown’s early education plan, boosting advocates

By Jeremy Hay

An influential state Assembly subcommittee this week voted unanimously to reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to restructure the state’s early childhood learning programs, encouraging early education advocates who object to the plan and giving them a boost as they move forward through the budget process.

Brown has proposed consolidating state childcare, preschool, transitional kindergarten, and quality control spending into a single $1.6 billion block grant. Advocates object to the plan because they say it would essentially cap spending and limit access to early learning programs, as well as possibly eliminating the transitional kindergarten program the state created in 2010. It also fails to address issues of quality and a shortage of childcare and preschool slots, they say.

“I’m certain it would not expand access,” Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, chairman of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, said of Brown’s proposal. He spoke Tuesday before the vote at the subcommittee’s budget hearing, one of two held this week on early education spending. “Until we fully fund the system here in California… it’s not the time to do something like this.”

Advocates and providers have outlined a proposal similar to one made by the Legislative Women’s Caucus. The advocates asked for $800 million to increase reimbursements paid to providers, add 10,000 preschool slots, increase spending on quality control measures and update the income eligibility limits to reflect the state’s current median income and current costs of childcare and preschool. The women’s caucus additionally asked for 25,000 new childcare slots. While the subcommittee’s rejection of the governor’s plan hardly means he will relinquish it, the move puts the advocates on good footing as they lobby for a spending plan more to their liking.

“The signals were that there’s clearly a lot of support for early childhood ed within the Legislature,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit research organization. “It means that there’s something to build on there.”

Scott Moore, executive director of Kidango, a nonprofit preschool provider, said that now “what’s important is to define what it is that we want to do … and what are the policy changes we need to make to accomplish that. So it’s not just rejecting the governor’s proposal but coming up with alternatives.”

Some advocates said they plan to focus on delivering facts to make their case for more funding and other changes intended to increase access for families, such as changing outdated reimbursement rates that affect childcare and preschool quality and income limits that make it easy for families to lose eligibility for services.

“They don’t want the editorials, they don’t necessarily want the more heartfelt stories; they really want that hard data. We’re going to provide a tremendous amount of data,” said Nina Buthee, executive director of the California Child Development Administrators Association.

The state Senate subcommittee on education began its discussion about early education spending on Thursday. It did not vote on Brown’s proposal, but pointedly questioned administration staff about it.

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, asked whether Brown’s proposal had been a “trial balloon” that the administration might now walk back given the “significant pushback.”

Advocates said that inquiry was encouraging.

“It was good that he picked up on the sentiment from the field (of early educators) that the timeline the governor has proposed is unrealistic and the dialogue about this restructuring needs to happen over a multi-year period,” said Elsa Jacobsen, senior policy analyst at Los Angeles Universal Preschool, an advocacy group for preschool quality and access issues.

Advocates have urged Brown – who has offered no new early education funding – to pull his proposal from the budget process, saying it would be a major policy change that shouldn’t be rushed through a budget negotiation.

“It feels like blowing up the system rather than shoring it up,” said Catherine Goins, assistant superintendent for early education and administration with the Placer County Office of Education, speaking before the Senate subcommittee.

At the Assembly subcommittee, Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, said, “We need to pull this proposal back and really study this. This needs to have some comprehensive policy overview; we shouldn’t just tuck it in a budget and let it fly.”

Jessica Holmes, a budget analyst at California’s Department of Finance, said that the intent was to streamline and create a “single, equitable system of care.” Brown’s budget described his approach as a way to make the early childhood care and education system more efficient and to improve access for low-income families.

But Sherri Springer, secretary of Californians for Quality Early Learning, an organization of private childcare providers, said Brown’s proposal would hurt her members because it would direct childcare funding to school districts to run their own programs. That could upend the current system where services are delivered by a mix of private, nonprofit and public providers, which meets the public’s diverse needs, she said.

“When we as a field talk about streamlining, it’s streamlining our administrative burden so we can spend more time with the children than paperwork,” Springer said. “What I see them talking about is kind of one-system-fits-all.”

Holmes said the administration has acknowledged and responded to the feedback it has received about Brown’s proposal, but also signaled it will keep a firm hand on its wallet.

Replying to Moorlach, she said, “We are not blind” to the concerns that have greeted Brown’s proposal, and that the administration has reassured providers and advocates that “we are looking at at least a one-year transition.”

But, she said, “We will also take into account where we are fiscally, which is always a concern.”

Early education spending discussions – and the subcommittees’ recommendations – now move to the full Assembly and Senate budget committees.

Moore, of Kidango, hopes progress this year can echo smaller steps of recent years such as restoring preschool slots cut during the recession and implementing transitional kindergarten and new quality control measures.

“We can continue to make incremental change, while keeping our eye on the long-term reforms that we would all like to see,” he said. “I don’t think Gov. Brown is likely to support those kinds of major new investments we would like to see; he certainly has not to date signaled that.”

Bill Making Mental Health Funds More Flexible Clears Committee With Bipartisan Support

The following is a press release from an organization unaffiliated with Voice of OC. The views expressed here are not those of Voice of OC.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: David Mansdoerfer
Thursday, April 14, 2016 (714) 662-6050
David.Mansdoerfer

Bill Making Mental Health Funds More Flexible Clears Committee with Bipartisan Support

Senate Bill 1273 Grants Greater Flexibility in Use of Mental Health Services Act Funds

(Sacramento) – Yesterday, the Senate Health Committee approved legislation by Senator Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) – Senate Bill 1273 – that gives county personnel greater flexibility over the use of Mental Health Services Act funds for outpatient crisis stabilization services. The bill is co-authored by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) and other legislators.

"With SB 1273, we have a chance to provide another tool in the toolbox for counties on how they can approach the mental health crisis we are facing,"Moorlach said. "Our police departments, often the first responders to people in mental health crisis, will have additional options on how to handle each patient. And, our emergency rooms will be less over-burdened."

At present, Orange County only has ten beds for emergency mental health crisis situations with its 3.1 million residents. This simple clarification in state law provides not only Orange County, but other counties, the flexibility to better fund outpatient care, as well as help ensure that patients in mental crisis can receive prompt, therapeutic care at proper facilities, rather than the hospital emergency room.

"I am honored to have so many health care providers in support, as well as the endorsement of former Senator Darrell Steinberg – the author of Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act and founder of the Steinberg Institute, as he understands the necessity," Moorlach said.

SB 1273, which received strong bipartisan support, goes next to the Senate Floor. The bill is supported by the Steinberg Institute, County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California, California Psychiatric Association, American College of Emergency Physicians-California Chapter, California Emergency Nurses Association, St. Joseph Hoag Health System, St. Joseph Hospital, Hoag Memorial Presbyterian, St. Jude Medical Center, Tenet Health, Orange County Medical Association, California State Association of Counties, Urban Counties of California, County of Orange, City of Newport Beach, League of California Cities-Orange County, California State Sheriff’s Association, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Orange County Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association and others.

For more information on SB 1273, CLICK HERE.

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

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Tim Clark — April 13, 2016

The downside of hiring exceptionally talented people is that others notice and recruit them away. This was not uncommon while I was a County Supervisor.

Late Sunday afternoon, my Chief of Staff sent me an e-mail informing me that he had been given an offer to work for the Trump campaign as the State Director.
Tim Clark is someone who has had a good track record of working for statewide candidates in primaries. I would say that Donald Trump was trying to recruit one of the best in the Golden State.

By Monday morning, less than 24-hours later, Tim Clark had decided to do something that was on his bucket list, consult with a Presidential campaign. The possibility of working in such a setting usually does not occur in the state of California. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. So, he accepted the offer. He did so with my strong reservations.

Now, I might have hoped that he would have jumped to assist one of the other two candidates, but I guess that’s what they get for not contacting him first.

I still have not personally committed to a Republican Presidential candidate. But, with the retention of Tim Clark, I would fancy that Trump now has a much better chance of garnering the necessary California delegates that he needs to secure the nomination. But, I am still leaning towards one of the other two and hope to make a firm decision by the conclusion of the California Republican Convention at the end of April.

The Sacramento Bee provides the announcement in the first piece below. Sister paper, the Fresno Bee, had the following headlines: "Trump chooses same GOP strategist used by Ashley Swearengin — Tim Clark helped Fresno mayor in local, state races." My team’s loss is the Trump campaign’s gain.

I fly home early on Thursday afternoon in order to share a fiscal update again with "Speak Up Newport." The Daily Pilot provides the announcement in the second piece below. I’m sure there will be plenty to talk about.

And, in the third piece, Fox & Hounds takes a thorough and thoughtful look as SB 1251 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1251 and SB 1140 — April 12, 2016 april 12, 2016 john moorlach).

Donald Trump names Sacramento strategist as state director

Tim Clark has spent decades working in California politics

He says “Mr. Trump intends to play and play hard in California”

BY CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO

ccadelago
With the presidential race heating up in California, Republican Donald Trump on Tuesday named veteran GOP strategist Tim Clark as his state director.
Clark has more than two decades of experience running statewide and district campaigns, and will take a leave of absence as chief of staff to conservative state Sen. John Moorlach of Costa Mesa. Before coming to the Capitol, Clark guided Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s 2014 bid for state controller.
“I am pleased to bring Tim on board to organize what is a very important state,” Trump said in a prepared statement announcing the hire. “I know he will be an asset to the team and ultimately deliver a win in California.”
In a brief interview, Clark said his focus will be on harnessing the energy of thousands of volunteers to help Trump reach the delegates he needs to clinch the GOP nomination. “Look, this is one of the most historic presidential primary races we’ve had in the last century,” Clark said.

“There is a tremendous energy out there,” he added. “There is a tremendous excitement out there. Our base is getting energized for Trump.”

Clark, who has not lost a statewide primary race, said he won’t need on-the-job preparation. Trump previously tapped Ted Costa, another longtime Republican activist involved in the 2003 recall, to help organized delegates.

They join a race in which GOP rival Ted Cruz has spent months cultivating grassroots support across California. Cruz held spirited public rallies Monday in Orange County and San Diego and released a list of 50 current and former elected supporters.

Trump leads in public polls here and Clark said he is planning several visits.

Said Clark: “Mr. Trump intends to play and play hard in California.”

Around Town: Moorlach to discuss California’s finances

California state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) will speak Thursday at a Speak Up Newport discussion at the Oasis Senior Center. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

By Daily Pilot staff

State Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) will speak about state pensions, California public employees and politics in Sacramento during a Speak Up Newport discussion Thursday.

Moorlach has been an Orange County treasurer and supervisor and now represents California’s 37th State Senate District, which includes Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Irvine.

A question-and-answer session will follow his presentation.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. at the Oasis Senior Center, 801 Narcissus Ave., Corona del Mar.

A Bid for Transparency Turns Murky

Joel Fox
By Joel FoxEditor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

In an age when the quest for transparency in government is treated akin to securing the holy grail, Sen. John Moorlach’s “Financial Transparency Act” (SB 1251) has been frustrated by legislative hurdles. On Tuesday, the bill was turned aside on a party line vote although all members of the Public Employment and Retirement Committee did vote to reconsider the bill. The measure is designed to give voters a better understanding of the state government’s fiscal health.

Moorlach’s goal is to have “a citizen’s guide to numbers.” His proposal would have the Secretary of State publish in the state’s official voter guide and on the Internet figures showing the state’s fiscal situation. He even created a website to show what it might look like.

Voters who are called upon to make decisions on taxes, bonds and other economic matters – not to mention voting for candidates who will help manage the state’s finances – would find the information useful.

As noted on this site many times and corroborated in annual polling by the Public Policy Institute of California, voters’ knowledge of state budgetary matters is poor. They could use a little assist in following the numbers before voting.

So what’s the problem?

Public employee unions voiced objection to the bill. The Service Employees International Union, California Teachers Association, Professional Engineers in California Government, and California Professional Firefighters testified against it. They thought the information would be “confusing” and that enough information is already supplied to the voters through government agency material.

That would be the case if citizens knew where to find information within opaque government documents.

Moorlach wants the information where it can easily be viewed. Studies have shown that voters rely heavily on the state ballot booklet (voter guide) when they consider whom and what to vote for.

As to the opposition against his idea, Moorlach’s believes unions are concerned that the voters will find out the state’s huge liabilities, a good chunk of which is composed of pension obligations to public workers.

As of right now, state documents show the state liabilities outweigh its assets by nearly $43 billion, Moorlach said.

Moorlach intends to tweak the measure before bringing it back to the committee. He listened to committee concerns that some of the numbers reported to the public could be subjective. Trained as a CPA, Moorlach said he can make a change to his bill and still paint a factual picture of state finances to voters.

If Moorlach can convince the committee’s majority Democrats to ignore the unions’ objections, a massive hurdle in itself, he would have to guide the bill through an extraordinary obstacle course of three more committees before getting it to the governor’s desk.

The governor could prove to be another impediment.

Gov. Brown opposes the proposed November initiative that would require voters to approve revenue bonds that exceed $2 billion. Experts say the measure could interfere with two of Brown’s prized projects, the Delta Tunnels and High Speed Rail. If voters saw the amount of state liabilities in their ballot booklet they might be inclined to support an initiative that would give them a say on more bonds.

Still, transparency is a watchword in Sacramento. Perhaps others might take up the cause if roadblocks to SB 1251 in the legislature prove too great.

Could the Secretary of State add information to the ballot book on his own? Over the years, Secretaries of State have added information to the ballot booklet to help voters.

If that road is not paved for success there is always the initiative process.

Political reformer Charles Munger, Jr., who has thrown sizeable support behind California’s redistricting and primary election reforms, is now backing an initiative to add transparency to the legislative process by requiring bills to be in print three days before legislators vote on them. The idea is to avoid any back room, last minute deals that ignore public scrutiny.

If transparency is his goal, Munger might consider Moorlach’s proposal when he looks around for a future reform.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1251 and SB 1140 — April 12, 2016

SB 1251 was heard by the Senate Public Employer and Retirement Committee (PER) Monday afternoon (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Upcoming SB 1251 Hearings — April 9, 2016 april 9, 2016 john moorlach). As anticipated, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), California Teachers Association (CTA), Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG), and California Professional Firefighters (CPF) testified against it. Politico provided the piece below Monday morning in anticipation of the hearing.

The vote was 2 in support and 3 opposed, going down party lines. A vote to reconsider was unanimously approved. But, with the bill quadruple referred, even if it gets out of PER, there are three more committees to go through before the deadline. Now I have to fight a tight calendar. Therefore, I will make some recommended changes, try my best to get a third vote in PER, and restart my efforts to move it forward.

This morning, the Senate Governmental Organization Committee voted down SB 1140, also along party lines, declaring that there are no regulatory problems that the Legislature should oversee. Here are selected segments of my presentation of the bill:

“It’s extremely simple.

“The bill is only twelve lines.

“If the Legislature passes a bill that requires the promulgation of regulations, then those new rules should sunset in two years. They will continue if the Legislature approves them.

“We need to restore checks and balances.”

Are you really happy with the regulatory environment here in California? We’re trying to improve things for businesses and for the stakeholders in California. You win some, you lose some.

California Playbook

POLITICO

California Playbook

Carla Marinucci’s must-read briefing on politics and

government in the Golden State

OUR CONVERSATION WITH …State Senator John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, whose proposed legislation — SB 1251, the California Financial Transparency Act — comes up Monday before the Public Employee Retirement Committee, the first of four committee hearings. His stated goal: to provide voters “with a simplified summary of California financial data, compiled and certified by a non-partisan state office, and printed in the front pages of the official California Voter Information Pamphlet.”

— But Moorlach reports plenty of opposition — from organized labor. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the California School Employees Association complained that Moorlach’s effort “add confusion to voters,’’ arguing they’re already provided sufficient information from the Legislative Analyst’s’ office. California Firefighters were even stronger, saying that the proposed bill doesn’t demand equal transparency for corporate tax loopholes, and “seeks to use the legislative process and waste taxpayer dollars to set a bad policy precedent.”

 

— Moorlach: “It kind of reminds me of that old phrase –– “Don’t confuse me with the facts. How many people go to state’s website, or the Controller’s, and read the comprehensive financial reports? It’s MEGO — my eyes glaze over,’’ he said. “All we’re trying to do is give voters simple information. If you’re going to vote in November on a $9 billion bond, wouldn’t you like to know we have over $82 billion in debt already?….it’s about “how are you going to pay for that? And “where does the money come from?” Stay tuned.

 

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MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Newcomer Runs — April 10, 2016

The filing period closed one month ago and we finally have our first article on my June Primary race. It is in the Laguna Beach Indy, the first piece below.

The second piece is from the LA Times and will probably appear in its Monday edition. It addresses the subject of double dipping. What I receive as a pension has not been a secret (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Rule of 72 — August 3, 2015 August 3, 2015 John Moorlach). Encouraging individuals to retire at a young age baffles me. Besides the generous formulas–that I have been and continue to protest against–municipal government also sees so much corporate knowledge walking out the door years before this occurs in the private sector.

Of course, besides just retiring, I had options after concluding the second of my two permitted terms as a County Supervisor. I received about a half-dozen job offers from the private sector.

I can also tell you what else I didn’t do. I didn’t stay in the position of County Treasurer-Tax Collector until age 59. This would have provided a much more attractive pension, as this position pays much better than that of a County Supervisor. So, I am not in public service for the money.

If I would have successfully run for County Auditor-Controller or Assessor in 2014, I could be adding more years and a much higher salary to the pension formula. One four-year term would have increased my annual benefit by more than $28,000 per year. However, I did not pursue one of these opportunities in order to pad my pension. I chose to run for a position that pays much less and provides no employer funded pension.

I am well aware of the double dipping abuses. Like many a retired deputy sheriff, police officer, or firefighter, who retired receiving a $175,000 retirement benefit and was then hired to serve as the Police or Fire Chief of a city in a different pension system. They then start earning $325,000, plus qualifying for another pension, on top of their $175,000 retirement benefit. It’s a crazy system. And in this regard, I did try to make legislative changes while a County Supervisor to prevent pension system hopping.

The public employee union leaders must be getting nervous. It is nice to be recognized as a "leading voice in the Legislature against skyrocketing debt piled up by public pension systems." So I’m sure they raised the concerns. This is not the first time a reporter was baited with this story line.

It strikes me as humorous that those who will benefit from these same retirement benefits, the public employee union leaders, are the ones who coaxed their elected officials to vote for the upgraded, retroactive benefits, and now expect those same elected officials, and their successors, to work for free or not work at all. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Chutzpah — November 15, 2015 November 15, 2015 John Moorlach.


Newcomer Runs for State Office

Four-year Laguna Beach resident Ari Grayson will challenge Republican incumbent John Moorlach for California’s 37th Senate District in the November election.

In the wake of his decision, Grayson recently resigned as president of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club and signed off as co-host of the KX 93.5 radio talk show “Laguna Round Table.” For the last two years, he and co-host Jim Kennedy each week interviewed leaders on topical policy issues.

“Good government isn’t just about what you’re saving, it’s what you’re costing people,” said Grayson, in an interview Wednesday, referring to his fiscally conservative opponent’s stance against raising the minimum wage and desire to abolish public pensions.

“If you don’t have disposable income, you don’t create jobs,” Grayson said. “Even Henry Ford understood that.”

Grayson pointed to the innovative characteristics of the electric carmaker Tesla as embodying the keys to California’s economy and future: higher education, environmental stewardship, energy independence and economic vibrancy.

“We are never going to bring back manufacturing jobs. If we are going to have a 21st century economy, that demands an educated population,” he said.

At the party convention in February, Grayson said three Democratic leaders, including state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and Orange County Democratic Party chair Henry Vandermeir, urged him to contest the race.

“Whenever possible, we try to have a horse in the race,” said Vandermeir, who nevertheless explained that the local Democratic Party focuses its resources on countywide races and only competitive contests with little registration advantage are likely to draw state party backing. “He’s got his work cut out for him,” Vandermeir said this week.

Orange County remains the state’s last Republican stronghold. The contested Senate district spans the coastlines between Huntington and Laguna Beach and reaches inland across Irvine to Orange and portions of Anaheim Hills. Nearly 1 million residents, or a third of the county’s population, reside within the district’s borders. About 41 percent of its 463,000 registered voters identify as Republicans, though Democrats hold slight leads in Laguna Beach and Irvine, data from the county registrar shows.

Campaigning in a district with a 12 percent registration disadvantage “is a matter of idealism and dedication to the two party system,” said Aliso Viejo attorney Steve Young, a Democrat, who has run for Congress and state Senate in south-county districts without success in the last decade. “Frankly, I think they’re heroes,” he said of such long-shot efforts.

Without intra-party opponents in California’s June primary, the Moorlach and Grayson race will heat up in the fall. Young isn’t placing any bets. He thinks the GOP does a better job than his own party of backing long-odds candidates by taking the “long term view,” providing financial support for campaigns that ultimately woo voters into the party.

Grayson’s political counterweight on radio thinks the freshman candidate has a strong grasp of issues. “It’s up to voters to decide if they value a fresh opinion and knowledge of the Laguna Beach area,” said Kennedy, a technology consultant from Irvine.

Moorlach, 60, of Costa Mesa, served a cumulative 20 years in elected posts as county supervisor and treasurer before he won the state office in a special election last March by defeating fellow Republican Donald P. Wagner.

Wagner, a six-year office holder who cannot seek re-election due to term limits, had signaled his interest in the Senate district also, but decided not to take on an incumbent, chief of staff Sam Cannon said this week from Sacramento. Wagner represents the 68th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Anaheim, Irvine, Lake Forest, Orange, Tustin and Villa Park.

Grayson, 55, said he hired Deborah Skurnik to manage his first-ever campaign for elected office. He teaches part time at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona and also works as a design consultant. His doctoral thesis from the University of Michigan spanned the disciplines of architecture, engineering and psychology to explain the affect of light on comfort and well-being.

He says party leadership recruited him because of his involvement in the 70-member Laguna Democratic Club, where he drew attention to progressive causes in recent years with high-level speakers such as activist Tom Hayden and Attorney General Kamala Harris.

“We were preparing Ari to run for City Council,” said Nick Hernandez, who succeeded Grayson as president of the club. “This is perfect. Win or lose, he’ll get a lot of name recognition.”

Some cry foul as state lawmakers collect public pension checks and legislator’s salaries

Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), second from right, bids farewell to fellow lawmakers at the end of the Senate floor session in Sacramento on Sept. 11, 2015. Moorlach is a leading voice in the Legislature against skyrocketing debt being piled up by public pension systems.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Republican state Sen. John Moorlach of Costa Mesa has emerged as a

leading voice in the Legislature against skyrocketing debt piled up by public pension

systems.

But some in the pension reform movement say the former Orange County treasurer

may be contributing to the problem: Moorlach receives an $83,827 government

pension check from the Orange County Employees Retirement System while making

$100,113 a year as a senator.

At least 16 other state lawmakers collect two checks each month, including

Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), who retired two years ago at 50 as a

captain in the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. When added to his

legislative pay, Cooper’s annual pension of $173,820 brings his total income each

year to $273,000.

Advocates for a pension system overhaul say legislators are entitled to the benefits

they earned. But, they add, the costly pension perk is an example of what is wrong

with public retirement benefits: Government workers can retire too soon with

lucrative benefits that the pension systems cannot sustain.

"It’s a form of double-dipping, which makes a lot of people angry," said former San

Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who is planning a pension reform initiative for the 2018

state ballot. "Most of us have to work until we are 65 or 67 before we can retire when

Social Security kicks in."

It’s legal under current rules, said Dan Pellissier, president of the group California

Pension Reform.

"But the optics are poor, certainly for an elected official to be taking another public

salary after retiring," Pellissier said.

The practice was uncovered by a search of pension system records by the Los Angeles

Times just as public policy makers are debating both legislative pay and excesses in

public pensions.

Last month, state Controller Betty Yee reported that the public pension system has a

long-term unfunded liability of $63.7 billion.

On April 27, a state panel will meet to consider whether to grant pay raises to

California lawmakers who already receive the highest base pay of any legislators in

the country, $100,113, far above second-place Pennsylvania’s roughly $85,000.

Reed’s proposed initiative to rein in pension costs, including a requirement for voters

to approve benefits, would be the most serious attempt to address projected pension

shortfalls since 2012, when Gov. Jerry Brown pushed through changes affecting

future government employees.

The Legislature passed a law that orders current state employees to pay a greater

share of the cost of their pension, and requiring new public employees who are not in

public safety jobs to work until 67 to get full retirement benefits.

Brown said at the time that the bill was "not perfect" and that more changes may be

needed in the state retirement system.

Assemblyman Tom W. Lackey (R-Palmdale) agrees that additional action is required

to make public pensions sustainable, but he defended his benefits. Lackey was 54

when he retired as a sergeant with the California Highway Patrol.

He receives an annual pension of $111,792 from the California Public Employees’

Retirement System in addition to his $97,188 legislative salary. He did not accept a

pay raise last year.

Lackey said the low retirement age for law enforcement officers and firefighters is

justified.

"There is clearly room for improvement on the sustainability issue," Lackey said. "I

do believe in my situation, law enforcement pensions deserve unique consideration

just because of the danger and all the circumstances that surround that type of

career."

Lackey said 56 CHP officers died in the line of duty during his 28 years with the

agency. He also noted that current state lawmakers do not accrue credit for a

pension.

The rules approved by Brown in 2012 apply to local public pension systems,

including the one in Orange County, but the new retirement age does not affect those

like Moorlach who were already employed.

He retired at age 59 just before he joined the Senate, and his retirement check is

based on 19.7 years of service that included time on the Orange County Board of

Supervisors and as the county treasurer.

When asked about several legislators collecting pension checks on top of salaries,

Moorlach said, "It’s not the people who are bad. It’s the system that’s bad. We’ve got

to fix the system."

Moorlach said he warned in 2004 that the county was making a "massive mistake"

by boosting retirement benefits. It went from a formula with a retirement age of 65 to

one providing a share of salary payable beginning at 55.

After being told he could not opt out of the county retirement system, he abided by its

rules, but he decided after retiring at 59 that he could still provide public service, he

said.

"I could easily have retired at age 60, but I had a lot of my friends who said, ‘We still

want you involved, we want you to run.’ I did it for public service," Moorlach said,

adding that he agrees that the current system encourages public officials to retire

early.

His acceptance of a county retirement check and a state paycheck also concerned one

of his allies, Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal

Responsibility, which has pressed for pension reform.

"That doesn’t look good," Fritz said. "I hate to say this publicly about John, but it’s

double-dipping."

Fritz, who advised Brown’s office on his 2012 plan, said one solution to the problem

would be to adopt rules similar to Social Security, which reduces retirement pay if the

person goes back to work and earns more than a small amount.

"Something like that would be reasonable," she said. "We should do what we can to

discourage people from retiring too soon."

State legislators are paid $100,113 annually but many receive government pension checks at the same time, including:

Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove)

600

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:

$173,820

Government service:

Cooper retired two years ago

at age 50 as a captain with

the Sacramento County

Sheriff’s Department.

Biographical details: He is former chairman of the Assembly Public Employees,

Retirement and Social Security Committee.

Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield)

600

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:

$112,980

Government service:

Fuller spent 30 years in

public education and was

superintendent of the Keppel

Union School District.

Biographical details: She is the Senate Republican leader and is vice chairwoman

of the Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. Fuller is also a member of

the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee.

Assemblyman Tom W. Lackey (R-Palmdale)

600

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:

$111,792

Government service:

Lackey retired at age 54 as a

sergeant with the California

Highway Patrol.

Biographical details: He

did not accept a pay raise last year, so he receives a Senate salary of $97,188. Lackey

is vice chairman of the Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative

Review.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego)

600

(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:

$103,000

Government service:

Weber taught at California

State L.A. and Los Angeles

City College. She was also a

professor at San Diego State.

Biographical details: She spent decades in higher education and has spent her

time in the Assembly serving on the Appropriations, Budget, Education and Higher

Education committees among others.

Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa)

600

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:

$83,827

Government service:

Former Orange County

treasurer and member of the

Orange County Board of

Supervisors with a total of

about 19 years of county

service.

Biographical details: An outspoken critic of unsustainable pension benefits, Moorlach is a member of the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee. He is vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee and serves on the Budget and Fiscal Review and Governance and Finance committees.

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles)

600

(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:

$83,544

Government service:

Jones-Sawyer worked for the

city of Los Angeles in roles

including director of asset

management and assistant

deputy mayor.

Biographical details: He is chairman of the Public Safety Committee and serves

on the Higher Education, Government Organization and Agriculture committees. He

is the former chairman of the Los Angeles County Small Business Commission.

Assemblyman José Medina (D-Riverside)

600

(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:

$63,420

Government service:

Medina retired in 2012 after

many years as a teacher with

the Riverside Unified School

District.

Biographical details: He

was a school board member on the Jurupa Unified School District Board of

Education and completed three terms on the Riverside Community College District

Board of Trustees. Medina is chairman of the Assembly Committee on Higher

Education.

Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego)

600

(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:

$59,481

Government service:

Block served as a dean,

professor and legal advisor at

San Diego State.

Biographical details: He

served as a San Diego Superior Court judge pro tem and statewide president of the

California County Boards of Education. He chairs the Senate Education Budget

Subcommittee, the Committee on Banking and Financial Institutions and the

Legislative Jewish Caucus.

Assemblyman Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park)

600

(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:

$51,293

Government service: He

spent 13 years on the San

Mateo County Board of

Supervisors, which was a full-

time job with benefits.

Biographical details: Gordon chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Rules and

serves on the Budget committee.

Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside)

600

(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:

$45,566

Government service: Roth

is a former major general in

the U.S. Air Force.

Biographical details: Roth

has turned down pay increases

in his Senate salary since his election, so he receives $90,540 annually. He is

chairman of the Senate Budget Subcommittee on State Administration and General

Government, and the Insurance Committee. He is vice-chairman of the Joint

Legislative Audit Committee.

Sen. James Beall (D-San José)

600

(Associated Press)

Annual public pension:

$40,320

Government service: Beall

is a former member of the

Santa Clara County Board of

Supervisors and former urban

planner for the cities of Santa

Cruz and Los Gatos.

Biographical details: He is chairman of the Senate Transportation and Housing

Committee, and is a member of the Public Employment and Retirement;

Appropriations; Budget and Fiscal Review; and Governance and Finance committees.

He also sits on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills)

600

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:

$19,140

Government service:

Pavley taught in public

schools for more than two

decades, completing her

teaching career in Moorpark

before she retired in July 2004.

Biographical details: She is the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee

chairwoman, and serves on committees including Budget and Fiscal Review and

Governance and Finance. She was also mayor of Agoura Hills.

Assemblyman Kansen Chu (D-San José)

600

(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:

$18,276

Government service: He

worked as an aide to

legislators and served seven

years on the San José City

Council.

Biographical details: He

served on the Berryessa Union School Board District and is chairman of the

Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media committee. He

also serves on the Committee on Labor and Employment and the Jobs, Economic

Development and the Economy and Transportation committees.

Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis)

600

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:

$11,827

Government service:

Wolk served from 1998 to

2002 as an elected member

of the Yolo County Board of

Supervisors before retiring

from county service.

Biographical details: She is Senate majority whip and is chairwoman of the

Senate Budget Subcommittee and No. 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection,

Energy and Transportation. Wolk is the former mayor of Davis.

Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada-Flintridge)

600

(Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Annual public pension:

$8,880

Government service: Liu

was a teacher in Richmond

public schools, teaching

history at the junior and

senior high levels. She

became a school

administrator before retiring in 1996.

Biographical details: She is chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee and

serves on the Insurance, Public Safety, Human Services and Elections and

Constitutional Amendments committees.

Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica)

600

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:

$5,239

Government service:

Bloom served for 13 years on

the Santa Monica City

Council, where he served

as mayor three times.

Biographical details: He also served as a volunteer judge pro tem and mediator

for Los Angeles County Superior Courts. He is a member of Assembly committees

including Budget, Appropriations and Higher Education.

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez (R-Oceanside)

600

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:

Requests made by the Times

for information about

Chávez’s annual pension were

not answered by Chávez and

military representatives.

Government service:

Chávez spent more than 28 years as a U.S. Marine, rising to the rank of colonel and

serving as chief of staff for the 4th Marine Division.

Biographical details: He is vice chairman of the Assembly Veterans Affairs

committee, and sits on the Budget and Joint Legislative Budget committees, among

others.

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