MOORLACH UPDATE — Bonuses and Bogusness — October 21, 2017

I’ve got bonuses for you. The first is that Newport-Mesa Unified School Board Trustee Judy Franco is being acknowledged for her long-term service. I want to wish her all the best and thank her for her dedication to the community.

Judy has been in the trenches over the decades and, when I stayed at the Hyatt San Diego several years ago for a California Republican Party Convention, she was also there for a School Trustees Conference. She has always been serious about her fiduciary role and has been a bonus to me. The Daily Pilot covers her decision to not rerun in the first piece below.

The second piece is from the Voice of OC and needs one slight clarification. The title is bogus. Of the 20 worst bills that I suggested the Governor should veto (one of the bonuses below), Senator Josh Newman (D – Fullerton) did not vote against one of them. He’s a liberal Democrat and votes with the herd. However, Sen. Steve Glazer (D – Rialto) voted against 6 of these lousy bills and is fully deserving of the moniker “centrist.” There is your inside bonus on this posturing. As always, actions speak louder than words.

The third piece shows that, although the 2017 Session has concluded, our office is still working daily on the pressing issues. My Chief of Staff, who has been a serious bonus during my tenure, was a panelist at a recent technology conference and was identified as a contributor in Government Technology.

Our efforts for transparency were thwarted last year with the introduction of SB 1251 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Upcoming SB 1251 Hearings — April 9, 2016 and MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1251 and SB 1140 — April 12, 2016). I shared this experience in my speeches last fall (also see Again, we’re trying.

Talking about trying, the San Francisco Chronicle provides the fourth piece below. Although it does not mention me by name, it does address my only vetoed bill, SB 1463, so I’m throwing it in as a bonus (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Conflagration Legacy — October 12, 2017). It provides stronger clues as to why SB 1463, which did not receive one vote in opposition when it went through the Legislature, was vetoed by the Governor. Perhaps his veto message was bogus?

Now, for two additional BONUSES. The Governor had to address the Legislature’s bills by October 15. It’s time for the results.

BONUS: Governor Jerry Brown vetoed 7 (35 percent) of the worst 20 bills of the 2017 Session (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 Top 20 Veto Worthy Bills — September 22, 2017).

Although it’s not 100 percent, as these are bills written by fellow Democrats, more than two-thirds is better than his signing them all. Four of the Top 20 also made it to our “Who’s Your Daddy?” listing (noted as “WYD?” and further explained in the next BONUS). More on those results in the next UPDATE. Here are the results:

1 AB 20 (Kalra) Send Jobs, Not Investments to Dakota Signed
2 AB 168 (Eggman) Across the Board Salary Lowballing Signed
3 AB 199 (Chu) Construction Reduction Act WYD? Signed
4 AB 569 (Gonzalez- Discrimination of Church by State Vetoed
5 AB 890 (Medina) Voter Suppression Act Vetoed
6 AB 1008 (McCarty) Employment Meddling Act Signed
7 AB 1209 (Gonzalez- Women Employee Reduction Act Vetoed
8 AB 1269 (M. Stone) Mobile Home Tax Vetoed
9 AB 1274 (O’Donnell) Fee Hidden as a Tax Signed
10 AB 1455 (Bocanegra) Public Employee Bargaining WYD? Signed
Secrecy Act
11 AB 1461 (Thurmond) Food Handler Cards – Farmers Next? WYD? Vetoed
12 AB 1513 (Kalra) Union Invasion of Privacy WYD? Vetoed
13 SB 2 (Atkins) Killing Homes and Jobs for the Signed
Middle Class Act
14 SB 3 (Beall) California Legislature’s Housing Signed
Sub-Prime Act
15 SB 5 (De Leon) Park Bond Boondoggle Signed
16 SB 54 (De Leon) Sanctuary State Nonsense Signed
17 SB 63 (Jackson) Small Business Meddling Act Signed
18 SB 149 (McGuire) Do As I Say, Not As I Disclose Vetoed
19 SB 239 (Wiener) HIV Assualt Act Signed
20 SB 285 (Atkins) Bargaining Meddling Act Signed

BONUS: There is no disputing that public employee unions dominate and control the majority party in Sacramento. This year had another crop of bills at the end of Session that were so slanted to benefit unions, I decided to create a “Who’s Your Daddy?” list. It is that bad (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Who Do You Answer To? — October 1, 2017 october 1, 2017 john moorlach).

Jerry Brown would not be our Governor, but for the campaign funding he received in 2010 from public employee unions to overcome billionaire Meg Whitman’s personal financial resources. So, how did the Governor do with these 15 blatant union bills? He vetoed five of them. Killing one-third of these bad bills is commendable. Here are the results (four of them were also in the Top 20 list):

1 AB 45 (Thurmond) Teachers Pet Act – Housing Benefits Vetoed
only for unionized teachers
2 AB 55 (Thurmond) Oil Refinery “Skilled Journeyperson” Signed
3 AB 73 (Chiu) Requires higher prevailing wages for Signed
low income housing construction
4 AB 83 (Santiago) Unionizes Judicial Council Employees Signed
5 AB 168 (Eggman) Across the Board Salary Lowballing Signed
6 AB 199 (Chu) Construction Reduction Act Signed
7 AB 621 (Bocanegra) Back Door School District Pay Raises Vetoed
8 AB 670 (Thurmond) Picket Lines in the Sandbox? Unionizes Signed
Part-Time Playground Attendants
9 AB 848 (McCarty) Bans State Colleges from Outsourcing Signed
Jobs to Foreign Countries
10 AB 1320 (Bonta) Eliminates Prison Outsourcing Vetoed
11 AB 1424 (Levine) Allows UC System to Use “Best Value” Signed
Bidding Methodology
12 AB 1455 (Bocanegra) Public Employee Bargaining Signed
Secrecy Act
13 AB 1461 (Thurmond) Food Handler Cards – Farmers Next? Vetoed
14 AB 1513 (Kalra) Union Invasion of Privacy Vetoed
15 AB 1651 (Reyes) Complicates Process of Removing Bad Signed

‘She’s given her life to these schools’: Newport-Mesa trustee Judy Franco prepares to step aside after nearly 4 decades

By Priscella Vega

When Judy Franco was appointed to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board in 1980, she didn’t imagine that 37 years later she would still be representing Area 5.

She said she had dropped hints about stepping down at the end of her current term, but when she announced Tuesday that she wouldn’t run in the 2018 election, some observers nevertheless were surprised.

Franco, 80, said she needed to clear up rumors about why the school board may have preferred one map over another in adjusting trustee zone boundaries in time for next year’s election.

In one proposal, labeled Map B, Franco and board President Karen Yelsey’s current addresses would be in the same zone, Area 5, resulting in the possibility of them running against each other in a future election.

Some critics of the other proposal, Map G, speculated it was created to help them avoid a possible faceoff. Yelsey and Franco denied that.

“I didn’t want to make the announcement, but I was sick and tired of hearing innuendo of reasons why we chose Map G,” Franco said Friday. “It made me very angry, and the blame was somehow not put on me but on Yelsey by many people, and it’s totally untrue. It irritated the devil out of me.”

Criticism aside, Franco said she had previously promised her husband that she wouldn’t run for another term so they wouldn’t have to schedule trips around school board meetings.

Franco will complete her time on the school board in December 2018.

During her tenure, Franco has seen the district close multiple elementary schools, embrace a growing number of Latino families from Costa Mesa’s Westside, and deal with controversy surrounding a Mariners Elementary School Gold Ribbon Award and the transition from the controversial Swun Math to new math materials.

Recently the district settled a lawsuit alleging that its election system, in which the seven trustees are chosen by voters throughout the district, violates the California Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit led to the district decided to change the system so trustees will be elected by voters in each zone.

Franco said her career development was an organic process, beginning as a teacher, transitioning into a PTA president at Newport Elementary School and later being appointed to a seat on the school board, though she didn’t expect to stay long. But she was elected to the seat the following year and has been there since.

“It wasn’t a dream of mine, it just sort of happened,” she said. “Every time the election was coming up, I’d get phone calls from people and so I continued to run.”

During her first year as a trustee, she went into “learning and listening mode” until she found her voice, she said.

In an interview Friday, state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) called Franco “a real trouper” for the school district and the Republican Party. He said he recalled bumping into her during a conference in San Diego where he could tell she “took her job seriously and loved it.”

Two of her passions have been establishing sailing as an official sport and program in Newport-Mesa and taking on a leadership role for Youth and Government, an independent study program.

Sean Boulton, who started working in the district in 1999 and is now principal of Newport Harbor High School, credited Franco with helping establish sailing as an official sport.

“It’s a unique feature in Newport-Mesa because of her,” he said. “It takes hoops and steps to establish a sport like that, and she gave us the clarity to make it official.

“She’s given her life to these schools.”

In 2001, Franco was diagnosed with breast cancer but remained active in the district. She said she has missed about 12 meetings throughout her time on the board.

Trustee Martha Fluor, a board member since 1991, described her colleague as a mentor and a “true dedicated warrior” with an “immense amount of knowledge.”

“One of her strongest assets is that she’s truly [a] committed board member,” Fluor said. “There were times she was going through cancer treatments early on when she’d come to board meetings even in the midst of chemo and radiation.”

During her tenure, Franco said, she learned to resist criticism as long as she remained dedicated to her philosophy of making sure that programs, resolutions and motions were for the good of students.

When she finishes her final term next year, the board will be in good hands, Franco said.

“It’s a good balance with a breadth of knowledge,” she said.


Twitter: @vegapriscella


Reiff: Recall Target State Sen. Josh Newman Says He’s ‘Not a Politician, Not a Lefty, a Centrist’


Recall target Josh Newman of Fullerton says he’s “probably the least ideological Democrat in the state Senate” and dismisses as “hyperbole” attempts to portray him as a “crazy lefty” who is out of step with his traditionally Republican-leaning district.

“The irony is I’m the guy who’s targeted … I’d argue that as an Army vet, former business guy, I’m actually quite reflective of my district, which is a politically centrist district,” Newman said on the “Inside OC with Rick Reiff” public affairs show.

Newman voted along with 25 of his fellow Democrats and just one Republican to increase gas taxes and vehicle license fees, a measure that passed with the bare-minimum 27 votes. And that has triggered a GOP-led recall campaign; those wanting to undo the Democrats’ two-thirds super-majority in the Legislature see Newman, a freshman lawmaker with less than a year in office, as the weakest link.

“The tax is an opportunity to try to overturn the result of the last election, mine,” Newman said. “It’s really about changing the balance of power in the Legislature.”

Recall backers have validated more than enough signatures for a recall, but are now in court challenging a new law that gives petition signers time to rescind their names. Newman said he supports the Democratic counter-measure because it is “clear” that “a very large, indeterminate number of people” were deceived into thinking the recall petition was actually a petition to repeal the gas tax.

Nonetheless, Newman said the Democratic moves will merely delay the Republicans. He said there will be a recall election sometime next year and “I accept the recall process.”

Newman strongly defended his vote for the gas tax: “We have a real problem. Our roads and bridges are in sub-standard condition due to 20 years of neglect.”

“I thoroughly appreciate those are precious dollars that are an additional burden to voters, motorists.” Newman said. He said he is open to ideas for spending transportation dollars more wisely, including from his Senate Republican colleague and fierce Caltrans critic John Moorlach.

But “you don’t solve one problem by ignoring another,” Newman said of his gas-tax vote.

Newman recounted his underdog campaign last year. A political novice, he out-polled favored Democrat Sukhee Kang, former Irvine mayor, in the top-two primary to advance to the general election, where he edged favored Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang.

Newman trailed Chang after election night, but prevailed over the next three weeks as votes continued to be counted from his far-flung district, which takes in parts of three counties — Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino.

“I was down and then sort of dumbstruck and then elated,” he said.

His unorthodox campaign included a bear mascot, which was Newman himself – he said he didn’t want to subject anyone else to heatstroke from wearing the heavy costume. And his campaign signs – a “Hello” name tag signed “Newman,” a cheeky reference to “Hello, Newman” from the TV show “Seinfeld” – won the national political consulting Pollie Award for best yard sign.

“I’m not a politician,” Newman said. “I didn’t have the relationships or the endorsements or the access to funds.” Especially in the primary, before sizable Democratic donations became available, “I had to figure out how to run a creative, low-dollar campaign.”

Newman said he decided to run for public office after testifying before a state legislative committee on the issue of veteran employment. He was perturbed that many lawmakers were checking their cell phones instead of listening to him:

“I came home and my wife admits, although she’s regretted it since, she said, ‘Hey, if you really want to make a difference you should think about running.’”

The show aired this week on PBS SoCal, KDOC and Cox, and can be viewed on You Tube.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

California Open Data and Transparency Efforts Continue Progressing Despite Challenges

Speakers at the Data Coalition’s annual Data Demo Day say tech improvements and culture changes are coming, but much room for progress remains.


SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — The Data Coalition, an advocacy group for widespread standardization and publication of government data, hosted its annual California Data Demo Day on Thursday, Oct. 19, featuring panels of experts who work for and with the state’s legislative and executive branches of government.

Lance Christensen, chief of staff for California Sen. John Moorlach, sat on the legislative panel and showed up with a whole bunch of paperwork: a couple of thick blue binders, some weighty reports, another book of rules that barely fit in a pocket. He plunked it all down on the table and told the civic tech vendors, lawmakers and policy wonks in attendance that the stacks contained important public info about California’s budget info only available in outdated paper formats kept at the capitol in Sacramento. Essentially Christensen brought the props to show that despite California’s progressive values and booming tech industry, gov tech at the state level still has much room for improvement.

“If I were to say go find the budget, outside of a Google search, could you really find it?” Christensen asked the room.

He went on to note that if business owners, thought leaders or any other residents of California wanted certain budget info, “You have to drive to the capitol and spend a day picking this up.” He lifted a bulky binder to illustrate.

Indeed, a duality emerged throughout the event. Everyone in attendance — from government employees to politicians to technologists to lobbyists — voiced support for open data practices, while at the same time acknowledging that California could do a better job of execution.

That’s not to say no progress has been made in recent years. There was a sense of optimism in the discussions, a sense that state leadership is committed to doing its best to improve but is, of course, limited by challenges. The event’s keynote speaker California Sen. Richard Pan described how the failure of SB 573, which would have required the state to support open data and hire a chief data officer, had to do with politics but ultimately led to discussions that resulted in most of what the bill was asking for coming to pass, including the hiring of a chief data officer.

Pan also emphasized that the power of open data lies in not just transparency but also in its potential to improve efficiency within government.

“Through open data, we want to empower government to make decisions and see what the results of those decisions are on the public,” Pan said.

He said the best way to ensure that open data culture becomes entrenched in California is to develop better tools that the public will want to use to engage with government. Christensen, the chief of staff who brought all the papers, called for the public to show up at hearings, ask questions about why certain open data isn’t readily available and put videos of politicians answering on Facebook or other platforms where they can be shared.

Jan Ross, California’s deputy treasurer for technology and innovation, had the clearest examples of how open data practices in California are steadily improving, pointing to many of the open data and transparency efforts taking place within her department under the leadership of Treasurer John Chiang. Those efforts include the DebtWatch portal, which provides detailed information about $1.5 trillion of debt issued by state and local governments over the past 30 years.

It’s dry information, to be sure, but Ross talked about how citizens concerned with the government loaning taxpayer money in service of infrastructure and other projects could use the portal to see exactly where in their communities the money had gone, how it had made things better.

“You can see where this impacts your community and why you should care about it,” Ross said.

The challenges discussed included finances — especially for cities that did not generate as much revenue as major metros like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Another hurdle, experts said, is the sheer mass of data government collects, which can be cumbersome — as can finding ways for dozens of disparate public agencies to funnel that much data into a unified format.

“If the government chooses to publish its data, to standardize its data,” said Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Coalition, “the tech community can do amazing things with it.”

Arguably, the best indicator for open data’s bright future in California was the seemingly total acceptance that more gov tech companies are popping up with simpler ways to use tech to further open data uses.

Zack Quaintance Staff Writer

Failure to adequately regulate utilities helped fuel wildfires

By Jamie Court




Corruption can kill.

The fires that laid waste to California’s Wine Country and at least 42 lives were not merely the product of a changing climate and extra-heated winds.

Early reports suggest the failure of Gov. Jerry Brown and his appointees to adequately regulate our public utilities to prevent such fires also fueled the fast-moving flames.

Investigators are examining downed power wires and exploding transformers from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which were reported on multiple 911 calls, by PG&E workers and by witnesses as the immediate cause of many blazes.

Reports from fire responders, residents and PG&E itself also point to the flames spreading so quickly because of overgrown trees too close to the utility’s power lines.

The Butte Fire in 2015, which destroyed more than 500 homes and killed two people in Calaveras County, was caused by PG&E’s failure to cut back a pine tree that hit a power line and sparked the fire.

PG&E’s negligence to identify the weakened trees led to bipartisan legislation in 2016, passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature, to reduce the risks of wildfire from overhead utility lines by clearing out dead trees. The bill required the Public Utilities Commission to identify and map high-risk wildfire hotspots due to overhead utility lines, taking into consideration local governments’ concerns, so that utilities would have to step up their mitigation efforts in those areas.

Unfortunately, Gov. Brown shockingly vetoed that fire prevention legislation, claiming that the state Public Utilities Commission and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had a process in place. The furious spread of fires along trees in the path of power lines last week lays naked that claim.

PG&E itself put the blame on “hurricane-strength winds” and “millions of trees weakened by years of drought,” contributing “to some trees, branches and debris impacting our electric lines.”

In fact, winds were only half the level of hurricane force, peaking at 30 miles per hour when the Tubbs Fire started, according to the Bay Area News Group, but overgrown trees as fuel for the fire were all too real. Attorney Frank Pitre, who sued PG&E over the Butte Fire, said it’s “the utility’s very responsibility to identify a weakened tree and remove it before it strikes a power line.”

Unfortunately, cronyism in the Brown administration has allowed a long-standing culture of neglect at PG&E to continue undeterred because PG&E and its brethren fear no real consequences.

PG&E has long been the darling of the Brown administration, supplying his top aide, Nancy McFadden, from its executive ranks, as well as his former Cabinet secretary. It’s little wonder the unanimous fire cleanup bill was vetoed when McFadden, Brown’s top legislative adviser, was a former senior vice president at PG&E who left the company with a $1 million payout.

The veto came despite the fact that explosive electric power equipment is among the top three causes of California wildfires.

Brown has also stacked his Public Utilities Commission with PG&E and utility partisans in the wake of corruption scandals that should have shaken the commission to its core.

PG&E’s former lobbyist was caught in a pay-to-play scheme with former PUC President Michael Peevey, but Brown did all he could to support Peevey and keep the pro-utility commission pro-utility. “He gets things done,” Brown said of Peevey, after the scandal broke, calling him “a very effective leader.”

We often think of public corruption as an academic, antiseptic issue. In this case, it has real-world consequences. Brown’s refusal to get tough on PG&E and other utilities has led to repeated safety issues that endanger lives.

Consider the San Bruno explosion in 2010 that claimed eight lives and leveled neighborhoods. PG&E neglected gas pipelines and kept shoddy maintenance records. It even took ratepayer money intended for gas pipeline repairs and used it for executive bonuses and shareholder dividends. Emails showed PG&E’s lobbyist worked surreptitiously with PUC commissioners to pick its own PUC judge to hear the case. It took a federal conviction this year to reveal PG&E was a criminal.

City officials in San Bruno still wonder why no one at the company was ever punished. Under PUC President Michael Picker, a top former aide of Brown’s, the commission continues to stonewall the release of documents related to the blast.

Of course, PG&E has been generous to Brown and his causes as well, shelling out six-figure contributions over his term.

The irony is Brown has made combatting climate change his signature issue, but his hostility to regulation has made California more vulnerable than ever to its ravages.

That’s a lesson the next governor should learn as prerequisite for the job.

Jamie Court is the president of the nonprofit nonpartisan group Consumer Watchdog. To comment, submit your letter to the editor at

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach.


MOORLACH UPDATE — Conflagration Legacy — October 12, 2017

I sponsored about a dozen bills while I was the Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector. All of them were carried by Republican Legislators and all of them were signed by the various Governors in office during those 12 years.

This year I had five bills go to the Governor’s desk and he signed them all (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Iceberg Dead Ahead — September 28, 2017).

Last year I had three bills go to the Governor’s desk and he vetoed one of them, SB 1463 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Rejection/Disappointment — September 27, 2016MOORLACH UPDATE — First Veto — September 24, 2016 and MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 — March 25, 2016).

Senate Bill 1463 was one of my District bills. Councilman Bob Whalen of Laguna Beach did not want a repeat of the 1993 conflagration that wiped out his city and I agreed (see We both worked this bill and he flew up for the Committee hearings and testified.

It first went to the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee where it passed 9-0. It was double-referred and went next to the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, where it was approved 9-0. Then it went to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where it had high costs attached to it. CalFire wanted to hire two firefighters to work two years to update the maps, at a cost of $500,000 per year (so stating that this effort was already in process is not remotely close to how CalFire saw this task). After being voted out of Approps 7-0, it went to the Senate Floor and passed 38-0.

We next repeated the drill in the Assembly, appearing first before the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee, where it passed 15-0. Assembly Natural Resources Committee next approved it 19-0 and Assembly Appropriations sent it on with a 15-0 vote. On the Assembly Floor it garnered 75 votes and 5 abstentions.

It went back to the Senate for concurrence, as amendments were accepted from the Assembly and it passed 39-0 (as Sen. Sharon Runner had passed away).

Along the way Senator Jerry Hill and Assemblymen Matt Harper and Mike Gatto joined in as coauthors of the bill. All of them understood the challenges that the Public Utilities Commission were facing in trying to complete these maps, hoping that our efforts would bring an urgency to the process.

Not one vote in opposition and it was vetoed!! And his veto letter read:

“This bill requires the Public Utilities Commission to prioritize areas that have increased fire hazard associated with overhead utility facilities. Since May of last year, the Commission and CalFire have been doing just that through the existing proceeding on fire-threat maps and fire-safety regulations. This deliberative process should continue and the issues this bill seeks to address should be raised in that forum.”

It’s true that there was a process going on–it had been going on for 8 years–with little progress. And it wasn’t clear that local input, from the people who know their communities and landscape the best, were given a large enough role in constructing these maps.

Governor Brown was either being a tad vindictive with this new State Senator or the utility companies appealed to him and convinced him to oppose it. Speculation arose that maybe he was lobbied by his sister, Kathleen Brown, a former State Treasurer who is now enjoying a board of director opportunity at Sempra Energy. Nothing else makes sense. So I dared bring it up when I was interviewed yesterday.

There was no reason to veto SB 1463. And now the major cause of the devastating and tragic fires in Sonoma and Napa Counties may be due to the winds impacting electric power lines. The very concern my bill addressed.

What a heartbreak. I tried. The San Jose Mercury News broke the story and it also appears in the Chico Enterprise Report in the first piece below.

The repeal of the gas tax is still moving forward and the San Diego Union Tribune provides an editorial submission on this critical effort in the second piece below. (You may even recognize many of the facts I’ve been sharing in my UPDATEs since taking office in Sacramento.)




vetoed 2016 bill aimed at power

line, wildfire safety

Fallen electrical lines on Parker Hill Road in Santa Rosa, Calif. on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
Fallen electrical lines on Parker Hill Road in Santa Rosa on Tuesday. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)By mgafni and EMILY DERUY |
ederuy | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: October 11, 2017 at 5:54 pm | UPDATED: October 12, 2017 at 4:46 am

A year ago, a bipartisan bill aimed at reducing the risk of wildfires from overhead electrical lines went to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

It was vetoed.

The author of the measure — passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature — now says the governor missed out on a chance to tackle one of his state’s longstanding vulnerabilities: massive wildfires endangering residential communities. But the governor’s office and the California Public Utilities Commission say the bill duplicated efforts already underway among the CPUC, Cal Fire and utilities like PG&E.

Now, as a series of deadly fires rages in Wine Country, serious questions are once again being asked about the safety of overhead electrical wires in a state prone to drought and fierce winds.

On Wednesday, Cal Fire said that investigators have started looking into whether toppled power wires and exploding transformers Sunday night may have ignited the simultaneous string of blazes.

The acknowledgment followed publication of a review by the Bay Area News Group of Sonoma County firefighters’ radio transmissions in the fires’ infancy that found that there were numerous downed and arcing wires. In the first 90 minutes Sunday night, firefighters were sent to 10 different spots where problems had been reported with the area’s electrical infrastructure. The crews reported seeing sparking lines and transformers.

During that same time period, radio transmissions indicate 28 blazes — both vegetation and structure fires — breaking out, mostly in Sonoma County. Firefighters were sent to eight fallen tree calls, with many reports of blocked roadways.

“Those were witnessed,” Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said Wednesday, regarding the blown transformers and downed wires. “However, you have to go and look to see if it was a cause of the fire or as a result of the fire.”

The state’s fire agency has said it has ruled out lightning, but said the investigation continues for an official cause of the blazes, which as of late Wednesday had killed 23 people and destroyed more than 3,500 structures in Sonoma, Napa and other Northern California counties.

PG&E acknowledges there were troubles with its equipment Sunday night, but says blaming the utility’s electrical system for the fires at this point would be “highly speculative.” It has labeled the conditions in the first hours of the fires a “historic wind event.”

But meterologist Jan Null, owner of Golden Gate Weather Services in Saratoga, said that Sunday night’s winds, while strong, were not “hurricane force” and had been surpassed in previous storms. Atlas Peak had gusts of 32 miles per hour at 9 p.m. on Sunday night, Null said. By comparison, the peak had gusts of 66 mph in last February.

SB 1463 had been introduced in last year’s legislative session by Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa. The bill would have required the state to identify the places most at risk for wildfires and would have required the CPUC to beef up plans to prevent fires sparked by power lines — including moving lines underground if necessary.

But Brown said the bill was unnecessary. “Since May of last year, the Commission and CalFire have been doing just that through the existing proceeding on fire-threat maps and fire-safety regulations,” he said in his veto message. “This deliberative process should continue and the issues this bill seeks to address should be raised in that forum.”

But the senator isn’t buying it.

“Up until my bill those guys were doing nothing,” Moorlach said Wednesday. “I think you got some false information.”

He said his bill would’ve sped up what had become a cumbersome process and given local communities more of a voice by clarifying how fire risk is defined.

Had the governor signed his bill into law, he added, “I think it would have changed things. … I think it would’ve given Cal Fire a whole different set of priorities.”

Brown’s sister Kathleen, he pointed out, served on the board of the energy services holding company, Sempra. Power and utility companies, Moorlach said, “didn’t want to spend the money” making things safer by moving lines underground.

That’s “so outrageous it doesn’t merit a response,” Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said of the notion that the governor didn’t sign the bill to somehow help out Sempra. “It’s unfortunate this particular individual is trying to score political points by peddling inaccurate, self-serving claims at a time like this.”

CPUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said the years-long CPUC and Cal Fire effort has already reached key goals.

Phase One was completed in 2015 and Phase Two is nearly done as well, which will implement new fire safety regulations in high priority areas of the state.

PG&E has paid millions of dollars in fines and settlements over the years for its failure to properly maintain vegetation clearance around its electrical lines when it led to massive fires.

In April, the state Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E $8.3 million for failing to maintain a power line that sparked the Butte fire in Amador County in September 2015. That fire burned for 22 days, killing two people, destroying 549 homes and charring 70,868 acres.

In the months before this week’s deadly conflagrations, PG&E has been active in Sonoma County.

Just last month, responding to what it called California’s “tree mortality crisis” caused by the five-year drought, PG&E began flying helicopters over Sonoma County to identify dead trees “that could pose a wildfire or other public safety risk,” according to a Sept. 20 news release by the utility.

The utility said in that statement that it patrols and inspects its overhead lines annually. Since the drought and spike in tree deaths, the energy company said it’s now inspecting trees twice a year. Last year, PG&E conducted secondary checks on 68,000 miles of electrical lines. Almost 11,000 of those inspections are done by helicopter, the utility said.

The September helicopter inspections flew directly over Santa Rosa and other heavily impacted fire zones, according to the release.

In March, PG&E launched a program to inspect Sonoma County’s 90,000 wooden power poles. It was expected to last through early next year, according to a March 13 news release. The utility started along Highway 101 in Santa Rosa, in the heart of what would be torched months later.

Staff writers Paul Rogers, Lisa M. Krieger and George Avalos contributed to this report.


Commentary |

Gas tax hike has Californians paying more for less

By Carl DeMaio

We’ve heard it all before. Every time state politicians want more money from you with a tax hike, they promise they will use the money to address something you really want. Unfortunately, just as Lucy always snatches the ball from Charlie Brown, the politicians always end up taking your money and breaking their promises.

You pay more and get less. That’s the story of California’s failing state government.

The latest bait-and-switch comes in the form of the car and gas tax hikes.

Years ago politicians raised the gas tax, took out billions in bonds and promised they’d fix our roads. Instead, they raided the gas tax funds and diverted our money — time and time again.

The net result: California drivers have been paying some of the highest gas taxes in the country, and yet we still have the fourth worst roads!

Where does the money go?

First, it gets diverted. State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, recently released figures showing only 20 percent of gas tax funds are actually spent on roads!

California politicians have been clear about their distaste for cars because they are fanatics on the issue of climate change. Billions of gas tax dollars get diverted from roads to transit programs as politicians reveal zero interest in expanding roads or dealing with traffic congestion.

While politicians claim they won’t divert the money this time, their so-called lockbox is pure snake oil and simply a PR stunt. Read the fine print and discover the politicians retain the right to divert the money!

Just weeks after politicians raised the gas tax in April, they were caught diverting much of it to other purposes including transit, parks, universities, workforce and even farm programs!

Second, the little gas tax money that is spent on roads is largely wasted.

California state government is already known for paying bloated salaries and pensions to its government workers, but it gets worse with Caltrans, the state’s lead agency for managing roads.

In 2016, California state auditors slammed Caltrans for “weak cost controls” that “create opportunities for fraud, waste and abuse.” Those same auditors also found Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 employees at a cost of half a billion dollars a year. One Caltrans employee even golfed for 55 days while on the clock and bragged about it!

The few dollars that actually make it out the door of Caltrans’ bloated bureaucracy for road projects are also wasted. For example, individual road projects must pay mandated union-scale wages, do not allow fair and open competition for projects, and waste funds on convoluted CEQA environmental reviews.

All of this waste adds up quickly. The Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report reveals that California spends 4.7 times more per mile of state-controlled highway than the national average. This is despite the fact that many other states have much more icy and wet weather to contend with.

There is a larger issue at stake here. The fight against the car and gas tax hikes is not just about the pain at the pump, it is about the heavy burden every working family is increasingly feeling as California’s cost of living reaches unbearable levels with new taxes, fees and mandates from out-of-touch politicians.

Under this latest hike, the gas tax goes up by 12 cents a gallon and new tax assessment changes will make it a 19.5 cent per gallon hike by 2019! On top of that you will pay a much higher vehicle license fee. That’s an extra $300-$400 per driver per year!

That’s not all. New cap-and-trade mandates will raise the cost of gas as much as 63 cents a gallon. Add it all up and state politicians are now forcing you to pay an extra $1 or more per gallon in taxes, fees and mandates. If you gas up once a week for a car with a 20-gallon tank, you pay $1,250 more per year. A family with two drivers shells out $2,500 a year.

We can stop this madness by starting with the repeal of the gas and car tax hikes. That’s why I joined a coalition of reformers in filing a state constitutional amendment to roll back the taxes and strip state politicians of their power to raise car and gas taxes in the future without a vote of the people.

You can join the grass-roots movement at and help us collect the more than 584,000 signatures to force this issue on the ballot in November 2018.

It’s time we pay less and get more!

DeMaio, a former San Diego councilman, is chairman of Reform California — the campaign against the car and tax hikes.

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Devastating Legacy — October 11, 2017

Let’s talk about Gov. Jerry Brown. His signatures and vetoes have a serious impact on the future direction of the state of California. I suggested 20 bills that he should veto on or before October 15 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 Top 20 Veto Worthy Bills — September 22, 2017).

I also provided an additional 14 bills that fall into the “Who’s Your Daddy?” category that the Governor should also veto (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Who Do You Answer To? — October 1, 2017).

How is he doing? Regretfully, for the “Top 20,” to date he has signed Assembly Bills 20 and 199, and Senate Bills 2, 3, 54, 239, and 285. Of the 14 “I am owned by the public employee unions” bills, he has signed Assembly Bills 55, 73, 670 and 1455.

There is good news. The Governor vetoed “Who Runs Sacramento?” Assembly Bills 621 and 1320.

The Governor is not doing a good job. And the FlashReport provides a stinging indictment in the piece below. For the $1.2 trillion amount, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Other’s Senate Bills – 1286, 443, and 899 — April 18, 2016 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Reporting Pension Debt — March 28, 2016.

For the road trip through the state of Illinois quote, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Goes to Sacramento — June 14, 2016.

What is amazing about the FlashReport piece is that it sounds like she’s sat through one of my speeches (and she has). But, I’ve also been talking about or mentioning the state of Illinois in my UPDATEs for quite some time. Here’s a partial listing:

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Good Luck With That — September 17, 2017

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Bad News/Good News — July 18, 2017

* MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 1250 Labor Dominance — July 13, 2017

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Surprise! — July 11, 2017 

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Who’s Your Daddy? — July 1, 2017 

* MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 247 — April 20, 2017 

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Financially Unstable States — January 24, 2017  

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Token Pension Reform — October 29, 2016  

* MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Conflict of Interest — October 22, 2016 

* MOORLACH UPDATE — $117B Unrestricted Net Deficit — January 9, 2015  

* MOORLACH UPDATE — IRS — April 10, 2012  

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Helping Homeless — February 21, 2012  

* MOORLACH UPDATE — LA Times — September 24, 2010 

Just this week alone, the latest story out of Illinois is its continued inability to pay its bills on time. In fact, it is even having trouble calculating its Accounts Payable balance (this will make the accountants reading this cringe). This graph should encourage you to not be a resident of the state of Illinois:

Governor Brown, please veto more bills. As California’s future, post your last term, looks awfully bleak.

Jerry Brown’s California:

Devastation, Plunder,

Economic Failure

Jerry Brown is the self-anointed Savior of the Planet while his decades-long policies destroy the once-Golden State.

Katy Grimes

People like me have been explaining for many years that California is an example of leftist policies to avoid, and the poster child state of what not to do unless state suicide is the goal. California has become the Greece of the United States, and is cracking up. But this crack-up isn’t funny, as I cover in my new book co-authored with Jim Lacy, California’s War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?”

Despite the dire circumstances, the ravenous left in California continues at breakneck speed to implement so many detrimental, dangerous laws and policies, that Jack, the amoral leader in “Lord of the Flies,” would blush. Stranded on an island, this group of schoolboys degenerate into savagery. It sounds like California, doesn’t it?

Poor education, crumbling infrastructure, record budget deficits

While California’s exuberant leftist leaders celebrate one bad policy after another, the rest of the state is feeling dark and desolate. And broke.

California is in last place, or first place, depending on the wording of the poll, in everything, other than the vast fortunes of the Hollywood and the Silicon Valley crowds. The rest of the state – save for some of the highly compensated public employees – can barely afford rent, and few young people can even afford to buy a home anywhere near their jobs.

California has one of the worst failing education systems in the country, the highest income taxes, highest gas tax, highest poverty in the nation, a billion dollar budget deficit, the state pension system is underfunded by $1 trillion, and violent crime is on the rise. But we now have transgender bathrooms, and a new law that allows knowingly transmitting HIV to a partner will no longer be a felony offense.

“CalPers, CalStrs and the State health plan have a total of $1.2 trillion in unfunded liabilities,” said State Senator John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa. “For years CalPERS has been lying about their return on investment, claiming it to be 7.5%. Instead in 2014-15, according to Sen. Moorlach, it was actually 2.4%.” This is bad.

Legacy of The Gov.

This legacy of Jerry Brown’s is not one in which he can be proud; Brown’s legacy is one of ruination… almost as if he’d planned it this way.

I am a native Californian. I came of age when Jerry was governor the first time, 1975-1983. My pessimistic assessment of my home state is growing worse by the day. The economically strapped middle class continues to flee the state because of bad schools, very high and growing taxes, rampant crime, and declining local and state services but with higher fees and taxes for these services.

California is home to one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients. California is home to the most residents living below the poverty line in the country. And now with our politicians’ disregard for federal immigration laws, more than a quarter of the 38 million Californians were not even born in the United States.

California, once home to some of the finest highways, bridges, dams and reservoirs, now has crumbling infrastructure. “The skeletons of half-built bridges and overpasses for a $100 billion high-speed-rail dinosaur remind residents of the ongoing boondoggle,” Victor Davis Hanson notes. “Meantime, outdated roads and highways — mostly unchanged from the 1960s — make driving for 40 million both slow and dangerous. Each mile of track for high-speed rail represents millions of dollars that were not spent on repairing and expanding stretches of the state’s decrepit freeways — and hundreds of lives needlessly lost each year. The future of state transportation is not updated versions of 19th-century ideas of railways and locomotives, but instead will include electric-powered and automatically piloted cars — all impossible without good roads.”

California has more takers than makers

California has a significant economy, with more than 19 million private-sector jobs in the state. However, the number of welfare recipients “enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program in California alone exceeds the total populations of 44 of the other states of the union, according to data published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Census Bureau,” Terence Jeffrey with CNS news reported.

California has 13,496 state and municipal employees drawing salaries of $200,000 and up, according to Open The Books. California has more than 13 million welfare recipients, a large government employee class of more than 2 million, and more than 1.4 million former government employees now collecting overly generous government pensions.

When you add up the numbers, there are far more Californians drawing from the government than people working outside the government and paying taxes. According to William Baldwin in Forbes, six states are at risk of going into a downward spiral in the next recession because of this unsustainable ratio of private sector workers to state government workers, and those on welfare or receiving welfare benefits. And in California, this does not take into consideration the millions of illegal aliens, some of who are also on the dole. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, “nearly one in ten California workers is an undocumented immigrant.”

“If you want to know the fate that awaits California, just watch the state of Illinois,” said Sen. Moorlach, who drove through Illinois, from top to bottom, last October to see it for himself. “It’s a slow-moving fiscal train wreck and California is on the same track. The catalyst? Underfunded pensions.” And too many takers.

Katy Grimes’s new book, “California’s War Against Donald Trump,” co-authored with Jim Lacy, is available for purchase at in Kindle and paperback.

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Showmanship Let Down — October 7, 2017

Dan Morain and I go back to his days at the LA Times, where I recognized his work back in 2000 when I used to give the annual “Moorlach Award” to those in the journalism industry that had stood out in the previous twelve months (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of OC — December 8, 2010). I found that awards for those in the media were named after someone, like Pulitzer or Loeb, so I followed suit. Having been the victim of poor journalistic work, I thought recognizing good work would mean something a little special to those in the trade. Dan Morain is special.

Dan and I are now back together. He was one of the first breakfast appointments I had in Sacramento, where he now ably serves as the Editorial Page Editor for The Sacramento Bee. Dan and I have stayed in contact over the years. Dan shares my burden for the mentally ill. He was especially interested in my Laura’s Law journey, as I successfully pursued a legislative remedy to fund county staff in assisting some who are mentally ill and have had encounters with law enforcement officials (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Laura’s Law Journey — August 11, 2014). My efforts would find Orange County leading the state in offering this program, which has now been adopted by numerous counties (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Laura’s Law Resolution Passes — May 13, 2014). In fact, it garnered national recognition and I was honored by the Treatment Advocacy Center (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Catalyst — March 14, 2015).

Dan called me yesterday. “Did I sandbag [Senate Judicial Committee Chair] Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson?” Absolutely not! In fact, we worked politely and professionally through the appropriate channels and were rebuffed. Even one of the Democratic Senators on the Committee tried to convince the Chair to allow Ben Shapiro a more prominent place on the agenda and he was denied.

My staff put together a timeline of their efforts and I e-mailed Dan the following:

Timeline of Judiciary Hearing Events

 Prior to 9/20/17: Pro Tem’s Office worked with Judiciary Committee to develop an informational hearing to address issue of hate. At no point was the Vice Chair or Sen. Republican Caucus invited to participate and contribute suggestions for the hearing.

 9/20/17: The Judiciary Committee notified its members of the hearing along with the date, time, and title.

 9/21/17 – 9:49 AM: Sen. Moorlach’s staff reached out via e-mail to the Judiciary Committee and asked if Ben Shapiro could be considered as a witness for the hearing, since Sen. Moorlach had not had a prior opportunity to offer input and the agenda had not yet been finalized.

 9/21/17 – 9:54 AM: The Judiciary Committee responded via e-mail to Sen. Moorlach’s request to invite Ben Shapiro and promised to “float it with the Chair,” though it was “probably too late to add additional speakers.”

 9/21/17 – 2:07 PM: Judiciary Committee staff e-mailed out to the committee members’ staffs a draft agenda, emphasizing that it was only a draft, and “there may yet be some additions and revisions to the order, format, etc.”

 9/29/17 – 8:51 AM: Sen. Moorlach’s staff followed up with the Judiciary Committee via e-mail to see if the Chair had made a decision about adding Ben Shapiro to the hearing witness list.

 9/29/17 – ~11:05 AM: Sen. Moorlach’s staff followed up with the Judiciary Committee in person in the Committee’s office to see if the Chair had made a decision about adding Ben Shapiro to the hearing witness list. Sen. Moorlach’s staff informed the Committee staff that Sen. Moorlach had invited Ben Shapiro and he would be appearing to speak during the public comment portion of the hearing, but that Sen. Moorlach, as the Vice Chair, would greatly appreciate it if Ben Shapiro could be included during one of the panels. Sen. Moorlach’s staff was again advised it was likely the panels were full but that the Chair would again be asked since Ben Shapiro was planning on attending whether or not he was included in the panels.

 9/29/17 – 2:06 PM: Judiciary Committee staff alerted Sen. Moorlach’s staff via e-mail that the Chair was alerted to Ben Shapiro’s attendance but the request to include him in one of the panels was denied. It was reiterated that “Mr. Shapiro is most welcome to participate in the public comment period, of course.”

I informed Dan Morain that after all of our attempts, I just let Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson be Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson. Being a bully is what she does best. As a former prosecutor for the Santa Barbara County District Attorney, she has a certain overbearing mode that she operates under.

I had the only bill this year that addressed free speech on campus, SB 677 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Senate Bill 677 — April 6, 2017). The bill was “double referred” meaning that it was assigned to be heard in two committees, Senate Education and Senate Judiciary, in that order. That was reasonable to me. However, without any notice, the committee hearings were reversed. When my staff was alerted, they were told that Senator Jackson wanted the bill first and there was no time to appeal to Senate Rules to change the hearing order back.

When it went before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chair Jackson strongly opposed a bill to address bullying by instructors in public school classrooms (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Student Whistleblower Protection Bill — April 14, 2017  and MOORLACH UPDATE — Voted Down — April 25, 2017).

After my presentation, the only Committee member arguing against SB 677 was Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (see MOORLACH UPDATE — PACE and HERO — April 30, 2017). When the roll was taken, Senator Joel Anderson and I voted for the bill, Senator Jackson voted against, and Senators Hertzberg, Monning, Stern and Wieckowski abstained! It is my assumption that they didn’t necessarily oppose the bill, but they didn’t want to go sideways with the Chair. So SB 677 was not voted down, it just died for failing to obtain two more votes. So much for the majority party caring about free speech on state funded college campuses.

At that point in time, what I thought to be a reasonable approach to deal with bully professors was sandbagged by a bully Senator. This experience is one of many that set the stage for Ben Shapiro reaping her wrath. So much for free speech while she wields the gavel.

Why do I bring this all up? So you can appreciate the tyranny of the majority through a wonderful real life example. One that Dan Morain observed and was outraged by (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Elephant in the Room — October 4, 2017). His next piece, the first one below, will probably print in Sunday’s edition, is provided below for you today. His conclusion makes me sense that Dan was let down by the behavior he observed.

Now that we’re watching the media appreciate firsthand the nonsense of how conservatives are being treated in Sacramento, it seems only obvious that the free press should be outraged by the liberal bias in the Capitol. Since November 8th, the monopoly party in the California Legislature has been apoplectic because the Democratic National Committee presented a Democrat Presidential candidate that was awful, corrupt and incompetent and should have lost the election.

The shadow over the 2017 Senate Legislative Session was the berating of President Trump. I’m not here to defend our new President, but I put up with the last one for eight years and kept my opinions of his leadership skill sets civil. But, the state of California is currently the outlier. And it continues to push as the liberal showman in confronting the White House. I’m not seeing leadership from my Democrat colleagues, just showmanship. So I addressed it, once again, in the second piece below in the Orange County Breeze, dealing with the Governor’s signing of SB 54, the “Sanctuary State” bill.

I will try to give you a score sheet of how the Governor is doing on my request that he veto 20 particular bills. He let me down on this one.

The OC Register‘s Sunday Commentary Section will carry the third piece below. It is co-written by the world famous Jon Coupal and deals with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (see MOORLACH UPDATE — I Told You So! — August 26, 2017).

What if your child convinced you to co-sign on a $3 billion loan and never made a payment, leaving the responsibility of making the debt payments to you? Now, after 13 years, CIRM is finally promising to pay you something. Really? Is it $3 billion? Or is it $10,000? I’d lean toward the latter. You’ve been bagged. Someone has to tell your child to give back the remaining unspent loan proceeds and apply it against the loan. Put a tourniquet on this major let down, please.

Dan Morain

Dan Morain

Editorial page editor, political affairs columnist and editorial writer


Who is Ben Shapiro and why do people want to take selfies with him?

Conservative personality Ben Shapiro has a hard time going out and not being recognized by fans. Sac State junior Morgan Umphreys spotted him at a Starbucks on Watt and asked for a photo. He happily obliged. Dan Morain

Morgan Umphreys couldn’t believe her good fortune when she saw Ben Shapiro at a Starbucks on Watt Avenue in Sacramento last week.

The Sac State junior tried to snag tickets for Shapiro’s appearance at UC Berkeley last month, but they were sold out. In the birthplace of the free speech movement, protesters had tried to block his appearance. But Shapiro speaks to Umphreys, and millions of others.

Would he mind taking a photo? “Very exciting,” she said, her hand to heart. She deeply she appreciates that Shapiro sticks to facts without emotion and advocates for the “greater good” on his podcasts and videos.

Umphreys was the second Sac State coed to ask for a photo, as did a middle-aged man, one of Shapiro’s 842,000 Twitter followers. The conservative writer, commentator and #NeverTrumper gladly obliged.

“Yeah, I get that a lot,” Shapiro said. Such is a burden of being a celebrity of the right, one he happily shoulders.

Shapiro, 33, is a UCLA-Harvard Law School grad who is building a new media empire. His Daily Wire website gets 80 million views a month, no doubt pleasing his funders, the Texas oil billionaire brothers Farris and Dan Wilks. His podcasts and videos attract 750,000 a day or more.

He is whip smart and quick, not the sort of person you’d want to face in a debate unprepared on a cable show, as Piers Morgan discovered when he invited Shapiro on after the Sandy Hook slaughter in 2012. The episode has more than 6 million views on YouTube. It was not a good night for Morgan.

“We fly under the radar, get big readership and make money. I’m OK with that,” he said.

Shapiro was in Sacramento from his home in L.A. to visit his in-laws, who live here. He and his wife, a doctor, and their two toddlers were planning to spend the Sukkot holiday weekend with the folks.

The timing was convenient: Sen. John Moorlach, vice chairman of the California Senate Judiciary Committee, invited him to testify as the committee delves into the rise of white supremacy. It’s a worthy undertaking, and Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew, would have had some insights, given the vicious anti-Semitism he has been enduring, and his experience with the alt-right.

Alas, Senate Democrats, who control the committee, had other plans, and gave him two minutes during the public comment period at the end of the three-plus-hour hearing last week. No matter. He got his points across, including ones about attempts by the far-left to silence dissident voices.

Shapiro worked briefly for a law firm in Century City, hated it, dabbled in radio, and became an editor at Breitbart, shortly before Andrew Breitbart died in 2012. He stayed on as Steve Bannon took control the site. Bannon, said Shapiro, can be charming but is abusive and was “very interested in using Breitbart for his own ambition.”

Which is?


Shapiro quit Breitbart in March 2016 when Corey R. Lewandowski, then Donald Trump’s campaign manager, grabbed Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and Breitbart failed to properly defend her. Breitbart, Shapiro said at the time, had become Trump’s “personal Pravda.”

That’s when anti-Semitic vitriol got especially bad. The Anti-Defamation League issued a report last October titled “Anti-Semitic targeting of journalists during the 2016 presidential campaign.” Ten journalists, all of them Jewish, received 83 percent of the 19,253 anti-Semitic tweets, the report said. Shapiro endured the worst. It went over the top when his son was born last year.

“Notably, Ben Shapiro, the former Breitbart reporter at the forefront of the so-called #NeverTrump movement, was targeted by more than 7,400 anti-Semitic Tweets,” the report said.

Shapiro’s Daily Wire was having a particularly busy run last week, given the Las Vegas shooting and Shapiro’s podcast assault on Jimmy Kimmel over the late night comic’s emotional monologue on gun violence.

“I don’t know why our so-called leaders continue to allow this to happen,” Kimmel said after Stephen Paddock killed 58 concertgoers. “Or maybe a better question is: Why do we continue to let them allow it to happen?”

Shapiro lit in the following morning: “A late-night talk show host who used to host ‘The Man Show’ with women bouncing on trampolines? He’s now the great arbiter of what constitutes morality in politics and if you disagree with him, your thoughts and prayers are insufficient.”

Shapiro interspersed his lecture with words from his sponsors, one of which is defendmyfamilynow.comand its “Complete concealed carry and home defense” manual. A man has to eat.

He remains a critic of Trump and Bannon and his crew, including the contemptible Milo Yiannopoulos: “Bannon’s attempt to paint himself as the face of Trumpism is bound the fail because Trumpism doesn’t exist separate from Trump. Trumpism isn’t a philosophy.” What is it? “A cult of personality.”

Yes, he can be provocative. He believes homosexuality is a sin and opposes same sex marriage, but is a libertarian who doesn’t care what you do so long as it doesn’t affect him. He believes transgender people have a mental disorder and is critical of Black Lives Matter. Lots of people hold such views. It’s called free speech.

Last month, when Shapiro spoke at UC Berkeley to 700 people, UC spent $600,000 on security. What has become of us when protesters would prompt the University of California to spend such a sum for free speech? What were Senate Democrats thinking when they denied him a seat at the table to talk about the rise of white supremacy?

I don’t want a selfie with Shapiro. But sometimes it’s tough to be a liberal.


John Moorlach criticizes majority party’s Senate Bill 54 showmanship

California Sen. John Moorlach on Gov. Jerry Brown signing Senate Bill 54:

Secession seems to be in the air. On Sunday, 90 percent of Catalonia voters chose to secede from Spain. Last June, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra authorized signature gathering to put a California Secession initiative on the Nov. 2018 ballot.

So it’s not surprising that today Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 54, which effectively declares California has seceded from the United States on major parts of immigration-law enforcement.

In a statement, the governor explained his signature, “This bill states that local authorities will not ask about immigration status during routine interactions. It also bans unconstitutional detainer requests and prohibits the commandeering of local officials to do the work of immigration agents,” meaning federal officers of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

He did claim the bill “does not prevent or prohibit” ICE or “the Department of Homeland Security from doing their own work in any way. They are free to use their own considerable resources to enforce federal immigration law in California.”

Yet Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said, “This law is inconsistent with widely accepted best practices of open communication amongst all levels of law enforcement.” Although she did note “not all cooperation is restricted.”

I warned about this on the Senate floor back in April when, based on my eight years as an Orange County Supervisor, I noted, “I come out of Countyland, and we have assistance agreements. Our police departments in Orange County – we have 34 cities – they have mutual aid agreements. They work together. They respect their city borders, but they work together to apprehend the bad guys. So to unilaterally discontinue such a longstanding reciprocal understanding with the federal government, is disturbing. It’s disturbing to our constituents. So no wonder the California State Sheriffs Association is opposed.

“Why do we want to engage the federal government in yet another funding battle. California has a very precarious budget. It has major unfunded liabilities. It has major retiree medical expenses. It has severe infrastructure concerns. We just don’t need to jeopardize a funding source from the federal government for a state that is really having some fiscal concerns and is going to be asking our residents to step up to the bar for another tax increase.”

It’s also worth remembering that Article 3, Section 1 of the California Constitution stipulates, “The State of California is an inseparable part of the United States of America, and the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land.”

SB 54 is another example of showmanship by the majority party. Let’s hope they learn the art of leadership soon.

This article was released by the Office of Senator John Moorlach.



Take a scalpel to $345 million in California’s stem-cell research waste


Just as good scientists are drawn to conclusions by solid data, the decision whether to spend another $345 million by California’s state-run stem-cell research project should be based on an objective analysis as to whether it would be cost-effective. A rigorous cost-benefit analysis is not only fiscally prudent, it avoids being drawn into the moral dilemmas posed by stem-cell research, especially with respect to cells from human embryos.

Created in 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine was authorized to spend $3 billion in bond proceeds. But as is typical with most bonds, the interest payments would double the cost to $6 billion. CIRM has made $2.4 billion in grants and used $255 million for administration and prepaid interest — leaving $345 million remaining to disburse.

Should CIRM distribute the remaining $345 million (which, with interest, would amount to $690 million in repayment costs)? Should this remaining pool of funds be doled out?

According to the ballot pamphlet mailed to voters, proponents promised the bond proceeds would advance the “cure and treatment” of “cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries, blindness, Lou Gehrig’s disease, HIV/AIDS, mental health disorders, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, and more than 70 other diseases and injuries.”

But actual outcomes for these promised advances are speculative at best and nonexistent at worst.

Similar benefits were promised to the California economy to “generate millions of new tax dollars.”

In a Prop. 71 ad, actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s, urged, “Vote yes on 71, and save the life of someone you love.” Initiative backers also promised royalties to the state could be as much as $1.1 billion, thus providing a source of funds to pay off the bonds.

This past August, almost 13 years after Prop. 71 passed, CIRM announced it would cough up its first royalty check to the state on the new technologies it developed. Can anyone say “bust”?

With such a dismal record, this would be a good time to shut the spigot on issuing the remaining $345 million — meaning some $690 million would be saved by state taxpayers. That money could be better spent on pensions, schools, roads, housing or better basic medical care for our residents.

And required bond payments include $313 million from the 2017-18 budget, which began on July 1, and another $309 million from the 2018-19 budget. Total: $622 million for just two years. No wonder the Democratic supermajority raised the gas tax to find money for roads.

Unbelievably, a recently proposed $5 billion initiative for the 2018 ballot to extend the subsidy — effectively a second opinion on the project — was dumped last June. Even supporters didn’t think they could resell their snake oil.

When it seemed the new initiative might be advanced, the California Stem Cell Report ran an op-ed by Joe Rodota and Bernard Munos. “CIRM has over-invested in academic research, and under-invested in translating that research into therapies that cure diseases and prolong heathy lives,” they noted. “California needs to right that balance.”

But with the new initiative now moribund, CIRM therefore continues to operate as a kind of advanced high-school science project, instead of moving toward the cures promised to voters in Prop. 71.

That’s why Sen. John Moorlach (coauthor of this piece) sponsored Senate Constitutional Amendment 7. Requiring a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature, it would have repealed Article XXXV of the California Constitution, which codified Prop. 71.

Gov. Jerry Brown, among others, has prudently warned of the coming inevitable recession. And recent federal data show jobs growth in the state rising at only a 1.2 percent annual rate. This should be a time for excising waste and terminating this disappointing abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Jon Coupal is the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, is a state senator representing the 37th District.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Rising Tide — October 5, 2017

The Bond Buyer, a highly respected national newspaper that issues its editions Monday through Friday, is The Wall Street Journal for those on the buy and sell sides of the municipal bond market. It also took notice of the recent CalPERS Finance and Administration Committee meeting (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Who Do You Answer To? — October 1, 2017,  MOORLACH UPDATE — Iceberg Dead Ahead — September 28, 2017MOORLACH UPDATE — What Pension Crisis? — September 27, 2017 , and MOORLACH UPDATE — OC’s Newest Landmark Plaque — September 20, 2017 ). In fact, the reporter used these links to prepare the first piece below. Thus, this critical concern of local government budgets being squeezed by pension costs for their retired public employees is receiving a national reach. And the CalPERS administration is laying the blame on those that approved the generous benefits, subtly acknowledging that plan sponsors are not crying wolf and that there truly is an iceberg dead ahead.

The second piece below is from the Voice of OC and provides a synopsis of my recent Inside OC interview . And the final photo in Politico was brought to my attention by David Vazquez, a former college classmate of my youngest son and now the Director of External Relations for Vanguard University in Costa Mesa. Thank you, David, for another great Rich Pedroncelli photograph catching me working on the Senate Floor.

In California, rising pension tide leaves services underwater

By Kyle Glazier

PHOENIX — Rising pension costs mean California cities are increasingly struggling to provide services and beginning to talk uncomfortably about insolvency, according to testimony from city officials and a new report.

Several city officials spoke during public California Public Employees’ Retirement System board meetings in September, offering support to requests from state Sen. John Moorlach, an Orange County Republican, that CalPERS analyze the potential effect of suspending automatic cost of living adjustments temporarily until the fund is stabilized, as well as the impact of moving all retirees into benefit tiers for new hires established by 2013 pension legislation.

The public officials urged the board to work with them to reduce pension costs, and painted a dire picture of city after city struggling to keep the lights on and meet other basic standards due to their pension contribution obligations.

“Corona is struggling with CalPERS rate increases,” said Kerry Eden, assistant city manager and administrative services director for the Riverside County city of 167,000. “Which is leading us to make some very difficult decisions.”

The rate increases have been amplified by CalPERS’ decision to begin reducing its discount rate, which is the pension fund’s assumed rate of return on its investments. The board voted in December to reduce that rate from 7.5% to 7% over a three year period, a rate of reduction some academics and pension hawks still said was insufficient.

It’s a zero-sum game; the reduced discount rate means that CalPERS must necessarily increase contributions from a combination of the state, employers, and plan participants in order to avoid slipping even further from its current status of 68% funding.

Corona has already had to make budget reductions to parks and recreation, public safety, and other departments, Eden said, and is actively negotiating with all its employee groups in an effort to offset rate increases. Since 2003, Corona’s annual CalPERS contribution has increased to $23.5 million from $5.5 million. The city now expects the contribution to rise by another $14 million or more over the next several years, she said.

“We are on a path to insolvency,” Eden said, projecting that Corona will exhaust its reserves by 2021.

Officials from other cities gave similar testimony, including Lodi and West Sacramento.

The board never ended up voting on Moorlach’s proposal, which Moorlach on his website blamed on the influence of union interests who testified against his request.

Lawyers have expressed doubt that the options Moorlach asked the board to analyze would be legal, as courts have held that the California Constitution generally prohibits modifying retirement benefits for existing employees. Moorlach wrote that he found the string of testimonies “amazing.”

“To have city managers state that they are facing Chapter 9 bankruptcy and even providing the precise upcoming year they may be filing is a massive disclosure,” he wrote.

An Oct. 2 study by Joe Nation of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research also reinforced the difficult choices local governments face.

The paper, “Pension Math: Public Pension Spending and Service Crowd Out in California, 2003-2030,” looks at a variety of local case studies and their pension situations under scenarios in which pension returns match their targeted rates and in which they come up 2% short. The paper looked at the local pensions administered by the localities, and also factored in debt service on any pension obligations bonds they have outstanding.

“Employer contributions are projected to rise an additional 76% on average from 2017-18 to 2029-30 in the baseline projection and 117%, i.e., more than double, in the alternative projection,” the paper said. “Employer pension contributions from 2002-03 to 2017-18 have increased at a much faster rate than operating expenditures. As noted, pension contributions increased an average of 400%; operating expenditures grew 46%. As a result, pension contributions now consume on average 11.4% of all operating expenditures, more than three times their 3.9% share in 2002-03.”

In case study after case study, Nation’s calculations showed costs expected to rise sharply in the next decade.

In Los Angeles County, for example, 2017-18 pension contributions of $1.5 billion reach $2.5 billion in the baseline projection, and $3.3 billion in the alternative projection where returns fall short of pension fund targets.

In Vallejo, which already filed for bankruptcy in 2008, contributions reach $24.7 million in 2017-18 , which is almost five times the 2003-04 amount. By 2029-30, Nation’s projections show the city’s contributions increasing to $52 million under the baseline projection and $60 million under the alternative projection.

“By 2029-30, pension contributions consume 23.7% of Vallejo’s operating expenditures under the baseline projection, and 27.3% under the alternative projection,” the paper said. That number was just 3.1% in 2003-04, and results in a likely “crowd out” of public services as the city struggles to stretch its resources.

Even under a scenario in which CalPERS expectations about future investment returns are met, the extra budget pressure from Vallejo’s pension contributions would require 24% reductions in police and fire expenditures or more than 8% in across-the-board budget cuts, the study said. If CalPERS investments fall short, those numbers rise to 33% and 12%, respectively.

CalPERS spokesperson Amy Morgan told The Bond Buyer that CalPERS leadership is focused on keeping CalPERS sustainable long-term, and that localities are primarily responsible for benefits.

“We are the administrator,” she said. “The cities and the employers control the benefits. The legislature sets the benefits.”

Nation’s study accounts for all policy changes currently announced by CalPERS and other funds, including CalPERS’ phased-in discount rate reduction.

“There is contentious debate about what is driving these cost increases—significant retroactive benefit increases, unrealistic assumptions about investment earnings, operational practices that mask or delay recognition of true system costs, poor governance, to name the most commonly cited,” wrote Nation, a former Democratic state Assembly member. “But there is agreement on one fact: public pension costs are making it harder to provide services that have traditionally been considered part of government’s core mission.”


Reiff: Moorlach on Legislature, Trump Bashing, Immigration and ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’


“It was fun to have a front-row seat,” State Senator John Moorlach says of the recently concluded session of the California legislature.

He’s not being complimentary.

Lawmakers passed hundreds of bills dealing with everything from road repairs and affordable housing to pollution controls and declaring California a sanctuary state.

But Moorlach, a former Orange County supervisor and now a member of the Republican minority in Sacramento, says the Democratic super-majority was obsessed with “bashing Trump” instead of finding constructive ways to work with the new presidential administration.

He said that was especially true on immigration – “the big issue.”

“The federal government has to find an appropriate solution to making it easier for those who are here to become citizens,” Moorlach said on the “Inside with Rick Reiff” public affairs program.

“We should be putting together a blue ribbon committee. We should be working with D.C. and saying, ‘California has the following solutions.’ We didn’t do that. (Senate President Pro Tem) Kevin De Leon never put together a team.”

Moorlach said California could assemble a bipartisan team of “incredible people” who could work with Washington on thorny immigration questions: “How do we make the transition? How do we be fair? How do we exercise the right amount of grace? Solutions are there … Let’s not just poke a stick in the eye of the president.”

While suggesting a path to citizenship for the undocumented, Moorlach, a native of Holland, also expressed reservations:

“I’m one of eight legal immigrants in the legislature and as a legal immigrant who went through the front door I’m offended that taxpayer funds are being used for those who didn’t go through the front door.”

Moorlach also discussed what has become his catchphrase in Sacramento – “Who’s your daddy?” – implying that Democrats take too many actions at the behest of public employee unions.

Moorlach said he thinks pressing that assertion has made some lawmakers more thoughtful about the bills they introduce and even stopped some legislation.

He noted that a bingo card drawn up by Democrats on the final night of the session included a square that read, “Moorlach says, ‘Who’s your daddy?’”

“So I know I’m having an impact,” he chuckled.

In a response to Moorlach that was read on the program, Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government, portrayed Moorlach as an obstructionist who opposed the gas tax to fix roads and other key measures:

“The organizations representing California’s working men and women aren’t seeking to waste taxpayer money. The problem is people like John Moorlach,” Blanning said.

Moorlach also discussed efforts to address Orange County’s growing homeless problem. Moorlach is advocating for conversion of the state-run Fairview Developmental Center for the severely disabled in Costa Mesa, slated for closing by the end of 2021, into a facility that could house, evaluate, treat and assist the homeless:

“Let’s get these people back on their feet. That’s what they want to do.”

Asked where opposition to the idea might come from, Moorlach said, “You’ll probably see my neighbors go crazy. Because I live in Costa Mesa. I could throw a rock at that facility.”

The interview aired this past week (beginning Sept. 24) on PBS SoCal, KDOC and Cox. It can be viewed here.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Democratic State Sen. Mike McGuire (left) discusses legislation with Republican Sen. Joel Anderson on Sept. 6 in Sacramento, Calif. McGuire authored the bill that would require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns. | Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Elephant in the Room — October 4, 2017

The term “elephant in the room” has its own Wikipedia page (see Yesterday, however, the elephant really was in the room and it was still ignored (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Combatting Hate — October 3, 2017).

Ben Shapiro is a young, conservative, California resident who has an amazing intellect and an accomplished career. He also is genuine and sincere. And is interested in getting to the truth. But, he was ignored by the Chair of the Senate Judiciary and its staff, even after my office made repeated attempts to include him in the discussion for over ten days. And Senator Joel Anderson, without any prompting from me, made a polite request at the beginning of the hearing. The Sacramento Bee took note in their lead editorial in the first piece below.

This was a classic display of how the supermajority runs the Legislature and how tone deaf they truly are. A discussion on hate speech? Really? And a one-sided dialogue at that. We even had one speaker do a character assassination on a highly visible individual while opposing hate speech. Seriously? I kindly advised her that she should practice what she preaches.

The bottom line? I lamented that the hate speech was coming from the left in the amount of violence that was being displayed. It’s not the speakers. It’s the left wing anarchists that are the ones intimidating our state’s fine university systems and providing what Ben Shapiro refers to as “the heckler’s veto.”

Maybe the Democrats could gather these destructive groups together and provide a free showing of the movie “Gandhi”? There are other ways to exercise your frustrations. Sit ins are fine. Or do what the voters did in November by electing a Republican to serve in the White House. The Democrats have three years to get their proverbial acts together, or the hate displayed by anti-Trump agitators will ensure he is re-elected. And that, my friends, is the elephant in the room.

The LA Times Essential Politics online edition provides additional insights on the hearing in the second piece below. The hearing is the lead story in the FlashReport in the third piece below. And, it would only be fair to hear from The Daily Wire, which is the fourth and concluding piece below.

P.S. Watching my social media explode over the last 24 hours as we covered Ben’s 120-second public comment and media interview after the hearing on Facebook Live, I realized that we drilled into a frustrated reserve of people who are tired of this out-of-balance state, fiscally and ideologically. Sometimes we have to say things that aren’t popular, but that’s precisely the point of free speech.






California Democrats are all for free speech – just not conservative Ben Shapiro’s



The First Amendment can be so messy, as Senate Democrats surely must see.

Convening the first of multiple hearings into the rise of white supremacy in California, the Senate Judiciary Committee, controlled by Democrats like all of Sacramento, invited an august panel of speakers.

UC Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky was the ideal speaker to describe the boundaries of the First Amendment. Joanna Mendelson, senior investigative researcher at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, was the perfect person to discuss neo-Nazis in California and elsewhere.

But conservative writer and speaker Ben Shapiro, suggested by Sen. John Moorlach, vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a Republican from Orange County, would have had something to offer, too. The alt-right has vilified Shapiro, who quit the conservative online site Breitbart last year, and now dares to question Breitbart boss Steve Bannon, provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and President Donald Trump.

Rather than invite Shapiro to join others at the table, Judiciary Committee Chair Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, cluelessly granted Shapiro 120 seconds during the public comment period at the end of the hearing, roughly three hours after it began.

Jackson told The Sacramento Bee’s Taryn Luna that she knew little about Shapiro and didn’t think he’d be someone “whose testimony today would be particularly helpful” at the hearing titled “Combating Hate While Protecting the Constitution.”

Shapiro can be divisive, particularly on issues of gender identity and Black Lives Matter. But while some people see his views as offensive, he has lived through the issue. UC Berkeley spent $600,000 to ensure he could safely deliver a speech last month, an absurd sum for someone who is not a head of state. Shapiro left with the ideal photo-op: tweeting to his 829,000 followers a picture of himself thanking Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood.

Perhaps Moorlach’s invitation to Shapiro was a stunt. If it was, so what? Politicians routinely pull stunts to illustrate points. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats unwittingly helped make the Republicans’ point. By not listening politely for 10 minutes, they gave Shapiro 120 seconds of fame and then some. Another hearing on the worthy topic is set for Oct. 18. Let’s hope Democrats seek differing perspectives, offensive though they might be.

Senate committee examines hate speech in California

Mina Corpuz

The Senate Judiciary Committee conducts a hearing on hate speech Tuesday. (Mina Corpuz / Los Angeles Times)

Hate speech might be upsetting, but it is generally protected under the 1st Amendment, California legislators were told in Sacramento on Tuesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee kicked off a series of hearings Tuesday to define hate speech and to find a way to address it while upholding the Constitution.

While the issue has been more prevalent in other states, California has had its share of activity from white supremacist groups, including skinheads and the Aryan Brotherhood.

Joanna Mendelson, a researcher from the Anti-Defamation League, said those groups have been involved in prison gangs and political rallies. They mostly are concentrated in areas such as San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and along Highway 99 from Fresno to Sacramento, she said.

In June 2016, white nationalist skinheads rallied at the Capitol in Sacramento. Marchers clashed with protesters and seven people were stabbed.

The hearings are examining whether additional protections are needed. They are being held in response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August that ended in violence. Senate leader Kevin de Léon called for the hearings on the first day the Legislature reconvened.

“California isn’t immune to hateful speech and actions,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), who chairs the committee.

Legislators can condemn hateful speech and behavior and pass stronger hate crime legislation, Mendelson said.

Law enforcement and university counsel shared what strategies and policies have worked for them to support free speech and ensure safety.

Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood said separating groups of people at protests to create a space for peaceful expression has worked.

Ben Shapiro, a conservative speaker invited by committee member Sen. John Moorlach (R-Cost Mesa), briefly addressed legislators.

Shapiro spoke at UC Berkeley in September. Hundreds of protesters turned out and the university spent about $600,000 on security.

“This intent for some of the folks on the left to conflate speech they don’t like with hate speech and suggest there are legislative remedies is in violation of 1st Amendment ideals, and legislation to actually push that would be a violation of the 1st Amendment itself,” Shapiro told reporters after the hearing.

Hate speech can’t be protected if it incites illegal activity, causes someone to feel imminent fear for their safety or creates a hostile environment through harassment, said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley’s School of Law.

“The fact that we might have difficulty drawing the line with hate, doesn’t mean that there isn’t hate,”he said.

California Democrats Schooled

On Definition of ‘Hate Speech’

At Hearing

Posted by Katy Grimes

There is a rumor going around the California State Capitol that the Legislature is about to vote on a ban of humor in the state, because every time someone laughs at something funny, it is apparently at the expense of someone else’s feelings.

If this sounds silly, the Senate hearing held Tuesday, ostensibly on “hate speech,” was even more nonsensical.

“If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court

Or as some say, the best remedy for speech we don’t like is more speech. Fighting words with more words is a healthy exercise. It’s how most of us were raised, long ago in a far away land. But Democrats in California’s Legislature don’t agree.

Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee of the California State Legislature conducted an informational hearing on “Combatting Hate While Protecting the Constitution.” But the committee chaired by Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, didn’t present any balance – it was only speech with which she agreed that was allowed at the hearing.

Ben Shapiro, a Conservative journalist and speaker, was invited to the hearing by Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, Vice Chairman of the same committee. But Shapiro was not allowed to speak with the panelists, on the panels, or debate the two speakers. Shapiro was relegated to the public comment period at the end of the 3 ½ hour hearing, and allotted two minutes.

It’s a good thing that Shapiro speaks fast, and thinks even faster. His two minutes were more effective than the entire 3 ½ hours of pompous, self-congratulatory political grandstanding, and virtue signaling by all of the other speakers combined.

The takeaway from the hearing is that the California State Legislature doesn’t get to decide what speech is good and what speech is bad. But don’t tell Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson. Oops.

What Hate Speech?

In September, journalist Ben Shapiro visited the University of California, Berkeley to deliver a speech about personal responsibility and individualism. Shapiro had spoken on the Berkeley campus the year before, but this is 2017, and Donald J. Trump is President, and apparently this is a problem for the left.

UC Berkeley has been in the news frequently of late with images of black masked, and black clad Antifa thugs protesting and beating on students attempting to attend speeches by Conservative speakers. Given that liberal speakers are in abundance on the Berkeley campus, one would think that a little variety, and a little diversity of thought, would not be a threat.

Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, and David Horowitz have all been invited to the campus to speak, and all been overruled by what Shapiro identified as the “hecklers veto,” a form of censorship, where a speaker’s event is canceled due to the actual or potential hostility of ideological opponents. In this case, the hecklers veto was leftists, thugs, and campus snowflakes fearful of this dangerous ‘diversity of thought’ concept.

This year, UC Berkeley charged the sponsor group of Shapiro’s appearance, Young America’s Foundation, a $15,000 security fee. “Then, the school blocked off the upper level of the auditorium, fearful that radicals from the violent far-left-leaning group Antifa would infiltrate the speech and begin hurling objects from the balcony onto the crowd below,” Shapiro explained in a recent article on The Daily Wire. “Finally, the school ended up spending some $600,000 on additional policing, including the creation of cement barriers and hiring of hundreds of armed police officers for a prospective riot.”

Last year Shapiro’s appearance cost the school nothing. This year it cost $600,000. But it wasn’t Shapiro’s appearance that cost so much; it was the violent thug protesters threatening to shut him down. And UC Berkely tried to present this as Ben Shapiro’s fault.

Why Have the Hearing?

Following the Charlottesville, VA protests in August, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, announced that the California Senate would investigate the rise in white supremacy in California… As if what happens in Charlottesville, 2,314 miles across the country, is relevant to California.

“I see the rising tide of hate and intolerance,” de León said in August. “I believe future generations will look back on this moment in time as a turning point because how we chose to respond will shape the character of this nation and this great state for years to come.”

At issue is Kevin de León’s inability to abide by the 2016 election and this duly elected president; consequently, the entire state must go through this pretentious parody of hate speech hearings.

“We’re seeing a huge rise in acts of hate,” said Sen. Jackson, Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “That’s a very serious problem we need to address.”

But what this charade is really about is California Democrats and the left (including Sen. Jackson) conflating a spurious rise in “racial strife” to the 2016 presidential campaign and President Donald Trump. Every day the Senate and Assembly are in session, Democrat lawmakers rise to speak grouse and whimper and wail about Donald Trump and the 2016 election – at the expense of the actual governing of a state they all proclaim to care so much about.

Faux Panels Declare ‘Hate’

The panelists invited to the hearing were from the NAACP, CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations), Equality California (LGBT rights lobbying group), and the speakers were Erwin Chemerinsky, the new Dean at Berkeley Law School, and Joanna Mendelson with the ADL (Anti-Defamation League). While Chemerinsky was quite relevant as a legal defender of all speech, hateful or not, Mendelson presented an extremely biased analysis of hate groups, hate speech and included the “Alt-Right” in California’s hate group list.

But the price of admission to the hearing was worth it when Chemerinsky put Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, in his pious place when Chemerinsky corrected Monning on his assertion that hate speech wasn’t protected under the First Amendment. “Hate speech is protected speech,” Chemerinsky said. And Chemerinsky reminded Monning that it is illegal to try to prevent speech in advancement of the actual event. Monning is an attorney and surely knows better, but was caught advancing what he thought was a popular line of thinking with a traditionally liberal law professor. But Chemerinsky is intellectually honest on free speech issues, and schooled Senator prevaricator Monning.

Sen. John Moorlach took the ADL’s Joanna Mendelson to task on her biased description of Milo Yiannopoulos, when she described him as a “misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, transphobic troll.” Moorlach suggested that her name-calling was no different than the accused “haters” she referenced in her talk. Moorlach said she may want to refer to those accusations as “some say” Milo is those things.

“White supremacists deserve free speech, California lawmakers told” the Sacramento Bee online headline screamed shortly after the hearing. However, this headline makes it appear the legislature doesn’t understand free speech. How embarrassing.

As for Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson who denied she’d ever heard of Ben Shapiro until today’s hearing, either she lives in such a massive liberal echo chamber that she’s never heard of this outspoken, conservative Jewish prodigy from SoCal, or she’s a liar. Both scenarios are completely plausible. The irony of the hearing is that Shapiro’s name was invoked throughout the proceeding as if he was living in the heads of the lawmakers and speakers rent-free.

My assessment is that Conservatives won the day. The left looked like the fools they are. As for the Sacramento Bee, their “reporter” didn’t interview any of the regular suspects – it was just another “he said, she said” boring article with a provocative title.

For that I offer a big “W” for “whatever.” (And this is me giving a big eye roll)

WATCH: Shapiro Testifies Before California Legislature, Blasts Them For Trying To Limit Free Speech

On Tuesday, the Democrat-dominated California legislature, conducting a hearing with the title, “Combating Hate While Protecting the Constitution,” limited Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro to two minutes to give a rarely-heard conservative viewpoint on free speech, but they still got an earful, as Shapiro admonished the legislature to do their jobs, ensure that all citizens’ First Amendment rights should be protected and the “heckler’s veto” should be stopped. Shapiro was invited to speak by GOP state senator John Moorlach.

The female moderator began, “Mr. Shapiro, your name has come up a few times; before today I didn’t know who you were. I heard from Mr. Moorlach. Nice to meet you.”

Shapiro, responded, “Nice to meet you as well.”

The moderator said, “The floor is yours. I would like, just to ask, you don’t have to, because this is free speech time, the subject matter is ‘Combating Hate While Protecting The Constitution,’ and if you have a couple minutes worth of ideas about that that would be great. If you’d rather not talk on that, that’s okay, too.

Shapiro grinned, “Oh, no, I’m perfectly happy to talk about that.”

Moderator: “Great.”

Shapiro, in typical rapid-fire style, stated:

I appreciate the 120 seconds. Your job, obviously here at the legislature, is to ensure that our freedom of expression is maintained, that our First Amendment rights are maintained, and what that means, first and foremost, in my experiences at college campuses, is that the “heckler’s veto” must be stopped.

So, I was at Cal State Los Angeles, in February 2016, and there was almost a riot there, and the police were not allowed to do their jobs, and students were physically assaulted in the crowd. It is the job of this legislature to ensure that police can do their jobs, and when they do do their jobs, and they’re allowed to do that at places like UC Berkeley, everything goes fine.

And I’d like to make a point here about UC Berkeley: the reason it cost $600,000 to bring me to UC Berkeley was not because of me, okay? Everybody keeps suggesting that it was because I was coming; I’m so controversial; I’m so terrible. I came exactly one year before, and it cost this many dollars (Shapiro closed his hand and raised it), it cost zero dollars for security at UC Berkeley. The reason it cost $600,000 at UC Berkeley is because Antifa and violent groups had decided that Berkeley was their domain, and they were going to be able to ride roughshod over law enforcement there.

And this does bring up one final point I want to make in the long period of time I have to discuss, and that is the problem with a legislative body such as yours trying to draw lines specifically about what hate speech constitutes, because the fact is that one of the reasons groups like Antifa show up is not because they know who I am, it’s because they’ve been told by people that I am promulgating hate speech, which is utterly false and utterly untrue.

There are people who say vile things and with whom I disagree, among them people like Milo Yiannopoulos, who sent me a picture of a black baby on the day of my child’s birth, because I wasn’t sufficiently standing up for the white population, supposedly.

But that does not mean that the legislature gets to decide what hate speech is. I have been labeled a promulgator of hate speech when I was the number one target of hate speech, according to the ADL, among the journalistic community in 2016.

So let me suggest that as a legislature, your chief job is to ensure that my taxpayer dollars in this state go toward making sure that people like me and people with whom I disagree get to speak in places like college campuses, and not toward regulating what speech you find good and what speech you find bad, because it’s a really dangerous business. There’s speech I don’t like; there’s speech you don’t like, but if we can’t agree there’s a difference between speech and violence, we’re not going to be able to have a free state, let alone a free country.

Interviewed later by a reporter who asked why he had decided to come to Sacramento to testify, Shapiro responded, “I was asked by legislative Republicans to come here; they wanted to actually have me on one of the panels, but Democrats wouldn’t allow that sort of thing because that might be too much free speech … so I was glad to hear from all those people, but it would have been nice if they would have allowed one person from the Right to actually talk for more than 120 seconds.”

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Combatting Hate — October 3, 2017

I’m back from a Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing that was held this morning at the Capitol. Although I am the Committee Vice Chair, the agenda was established by the Chair without my consultation. We did offer to invite Ben Shapiro, the host of the top conservative podcast in the nation, to serve on a panel (see The Chair refused to accept the addition to her format.

Ben Shapiro received more notoriety recently, at the same time I was enjoying the conclusion of the Legislative Session, for giving a speech at the University of California at Berkeley. The Police Chief of Berkeley was a presenter on the final panel this morning.

The Chair did offer to allow Ben Shapiro to speak for two minutes during the Public Comments segment at the conclusion of the hearing. Accordingly, he sat politely during the three hours of presentations and was the first public speaker.

The first piece below is our announcement that Ben Shapiro was invited and would attend and appears in the Orange County Breeze. The second piece, from the LA Times online, provides a clue as to why Ben Shapiro was in Sacramento. And, the third and final piece from Independent Journal Review provides the details of this morning’s event and his two minute presentation.

For a brief interview with Ben Shapiro immediately after his brief presentation, see ​​.

Senator Moorlach has invited Ben Shapiro to Senate hearing on First Amendment

Tomorrow, I will participate in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing called by Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon and chaired by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson in our State’s Capitol. The hearing is titled, “Combatting Hate While Protecting the Constitution.”

As Vice Chair, I invited noted political commentator and free speech advocate Ben Shapiro to testify before the committee in an effort to provide a conservative viewpoint.

Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Shapiro gave a highly publicized speech at the University of California at Berkeley, one of many speeches he has headlined on college campuses. He has also been on numerous panels discussing First Amendment rights on television and in front of the U.S. Congress. Mr. Shapiro graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2004, at age 20, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, and then cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2007.

As a student of U.S. history and the Constitution, I am aware of the many debates on the most sensitive of issues our country has faced since even before its inception. I am hopeful our political discourse can open up communication between those of differing ideologies so we can enjoy our freedoms outlined in the Constitution.


This article was released by the Office of Senator John Moorlach.

Conservative speaker Ben Shapiro is in Sacramento to raise campaign money for Ami Bera challenger

400x400Chris Megerian

Ben Shapiro (Joshua Blanchard / Getty Images for Politicon)Ben Shapiro (Joshua Blanchard / Getty Images for Politicon)

Yona Barash, a Republican surgeon seeking his first elected office, is getting his congressional campaign rolling with a conservative commentator who has stoked controversy in California.

Barash invited Ben Shapiro to his Tuesday evening fundraiser as he tries to build a war chest to unseat Sacramento-area Rep. Ami Bera, a Democrat from Elk Grove. General admission tickets are $150, while attending the VIP reception costs $1,000.

Shapiro runs a website called the Daily Wire and previously worked at Breitbart News, although he’s since become an outspoken critic of Stephen K. Bannon and President Trump. He was a frequent target of anti-Semitic harassment during last year’s campaign.

Shapiro also has provoked a backlash with his criticisms of the Black Lives Matter movement and discussion of gender identity. Hundreds of police, some in riot gear, provided security while he spoke on UC Berkeley’s campus last month.

The fundraiser is not Shapiro’s only event in Sacramento on Tuesday. He also was invited by state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) to a Capitol hearing on 1st Amendment issues titled "Combating Hate While Protecting the Constitution." Shapiro is expected to speak during the public comment period of the hearing.


Ben Shapiro Crashes California Legislature’s Judiciary Committee and Conducts Lecture on Hate Speech


shapiro twitter@RealDailyWire/Twitter

The California state Senate Judiciary Committee held a meeting on “hate speech” on Tuesday and, according to The Daily Wire, not one conservative speaker was asked to officially testify before the committee.

That’s an odd move considering that far-left antifa and its allies have violently rioted to shut down conservative speech in the “birthplace of the free speech movement,” the University of California, Berkeley, becoming the impetus for the hearing in the first place.

One of two Republicans on the committee, John Moorlach, invited Ben Shapiro of The Daily Wire to show up to see if he could a word in edgewise.

Shapiro said he’d tried to be on a guest panel, but “the Democrats wouldn’t allow that sort of thing because that might be too much free speech,” so he basically crashed the hearing.

Shapiro was given two minutes to speak and said in part that the Legislature really had no role in selecting what kind of speech is appropriate and which speech is not:

"And this does bring up one final point … and that is the problem with a legislative body such as yours trying to draw lines specifically about what hate speech constitutes, because the fact is that one of the reasons groups like Antifa show up is not because they know who I am, it’s because they’ve been told by people that I am promulgating hate speech, which is utterly false and utterly untrue.

There are people who say vile things and with whom I disagree, among them people like Milo Yiannopoulos, who sent me a picture of a black baby on the day of my child’s birth, because I wasn’t sufficiently standing up for the white population, supposedly.

But that does not mean that the legislature gets to decide what hate speech is. I have been labeled a promulgator of hate speech when I was the number one target of hate speech, according to the ADL, among the journalistic community in 2016."

We think those two minutes packed a punch. Watch it below.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Who Do You Answer To? — October 1, 2017

When assembling the 2017 top 20 worst bills going to the Governor’s Desk, there were some 15 that were “Who’s Your Daddy?” bills. I could only include a sampling (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 Top 20 Veto Worthy Bills — September 22, 2017 september 22, 2017 john moorlach).

Nearly two years ago, I provided an extensive analysis of how the public employee unions run Sacramento (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Blame the Unions — November 9, 2015).

One of my biggest concerns in this posting was reiterated recently (see MOORLACH UPDATE — What Pension Crisis? — September 27, 2017). “The unions will say it wasn’t our fault. We didn’t vote for it. You guys [the elected officials] voted for it,” said Sen. Moorlach in an interview Monday.

Now that they have the supermajority in the Capitol, public employee unions have free rein in California. They are adding incrementally to their power by implementing law changes that will benefit them. I know that to the victor go the spoils. But, in a government structure, decreasing the tools management has is a strategic mistake. And, it will become apparent in an economic downturn, when cost savings need to be pursued in order to save current positions in an agency.

Greed blinds. And, as I’ve said on numerous occasions, when money talks the truth is silent.

One bill this year really showed the imbalance. It begged the question, “Who’s Your Daddy?” Major League Baseball fans will remember this chant and the accompanying clap routine (see In fact, it even became a segment of a TBS MLB Post Season show (see

The bill that set this chant in my brain this Session was AB 1250, which would greatly increase the cost to counties of personal-service contracts, sharply reducing help given to citizens, especially the poor. We introduced the consequences of the bill to you in this posting: MOORLACH UPDATE — Who’s Your Daddy? — July 1, 2017 . I provided the fun when I asked this very question in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee meeting with MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 1250 Labor Dominance — July 13, 2017.

The home team provided an editorial, with Orange County voicing its opposition in MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 1250 OC Opposition — September 5, 2017. I provided my own editorial, on the premise that AB 1250 was not being relegated to a two-year bill status and may be resurrected and show up at the last minute on the Senate Floor (it didn’t) in MOORLACH UPDATE Who Runs Our Government? September 14, 2017 .

When a budget trailer bill included an imposition on Tesla, a manufacturer with some 14,000 employees in the Fremont area, I had to ask again in MOORLACH UPDATE — Who Is? — September 13, 2017 .

By the final night of Session, one Democrat Senator made Bingo cards. The squares were words that may be spoken on the Floor. This is one way to while away the hours as this annual exercise drones on past midnight. I heard one square stated, “Sen. Moorlach says ‘Who’s Your Daddy?'” The chant had sunk in.

The OC Register provides the details of the union-assisting bills in my editorial submission provided in the first piece below.

The second piece is my Letter to the Editor of The Sacramento Bee. A common union tactic is to twist something. The headline of a recent post did just that
(see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC’s Newest Landmark Plaque — September 20, 2017). As Sacramento is brimming with current and retired state employees, the headline was inflammatory, when not factually accurate. So, I decided to provide a clarification. The good news? It was printed.


California’s legislative Democrats answer to unions


This past year, many California legislators had the answer of who dominates them: the public-employee unions. Bill after bill, these wealthy unions showed who runs those under the Capitol dome, showing the unions own the supermajority Democrats in the Assembly and Senate.

When speaking on the Senate floor, I tried to identify a few of the most egregious bills the unions got the obedient Democratic Legislature to pass and we’ll soon find out if Gov. Jerry Brown will grant public employee union bosses more power to waste your hard-earned tax dollars and control your lives.

Even as the Legislature produced a housing bill package, the costs for prevailing wages and inclusionary zoning requirements were dramatically increased in Assembly Bill 73, by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and AB 199, by Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose.

Housing costs are a problem and teachers are just as impacted as other professionals. Rather than improve affordability for all, AB 45, by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, would give special housing privileges to teachers while also requiring expensive prevailing wages.

Currently, parents, friends and others who get paid helping out part-time on playgrounds are not unionized. AB 670, by Thurmond, would change that, pulling funds from the classroom and pouring them into the pockets of union leaders.

For the months school is not in session during the summer, AB 621, by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-San Fernando, gives custodians, school food workers and others without teaching or other professional credentials a back-door pay raise. It’s projected to cost schools up to $200 million a year in money that ought to go to teaching, pensions and retiree medical care.

The union shenanigans continue in higher education. Our public colleges and universities regularly contract out for specialty services that could be done more economically and effectively in the private sector. But that restricts union jobs.

So, why not find ways to hamstring the process with three bills? AB 168, by Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, would require “project labor agreements,” which reduce competition, thus increasing costs. AB 848, by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, would ban outsourcing jobs to foreign countries — academic protectionism — costing up to $37.5 million a year from school budgets.

And AB 1424, by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae, would make allowing “best value” contracting for University of California construction projects permanent, which reduces the importance of lowest-price bids, possibly increasing costs at a time of rising tuition.

For the bad teachers, AB 1651, by Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-San Bernardino, further complicates the process of removing them.

Another union power-grab authored by Bocanegra is AB 1455, which would exempt collective bargaining documents between a local public agency and its employees from the Public Records Act. As a former Orange County supervisor, I can assure you that letting the public see what’s going on in negotiations is essential to clean, open government. But that’s precisely what the unions don’t want.

Home care aides are not so lucky in AB 1513, by Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, which would require the Department of Social Services to release their private information. This bill is not only a blatant invasion of privacy, but it’s also a shameless attempt by public employee unions to increase their membership.

As crime creeps back up after the passage of Propositions 47 and 57, AB 1320, by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, would ban new or renewed contracts with private prisons in other states, and all such contracts by 2021. Without the flexibility to contract with out-of-state private prisons when inmate populations fluctuate, the estimated cost of the bill could be hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s legal robbery of taxpayers — all for the sake of in-state, union-operated prisons.

AB 83, by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, allows collective bargaining for the Judicial Council. And if court costs weren’t enough, expect additional fees on fines for traffic violations to pay for these union privileges.

We’ve had a lot of debate this year about increasing gas taxes and extending draconian cap-and-trade policies. Unions are out to get more advantages out of oil refineries who claim exemptions from the state’s skilled and trained workforce provisions in AB 55, by Thurmond, by using intimidation tactics with legitimate contracts signed years ago.

And, if you like cheaper, delicious customized food, AB 1461, by Thurmond, adds pointless red tape to give food unions an edge on the new gig economy for simply selling ingredients for meals people then cook at home. Federal law already covers these services.

Only one Democrat had the guts to vote against this power grab. Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Rio Linda, voted no on four of these bills. He looks for the union label. So should his colleagues.

Space is limited, but I could list more bills of this sort, compelling me to ask of the majority party: Who do you answer to? I thought so.

John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, is a state senator representing the 37th District.


State pensions

Re “California pensioners: Your COLAs are safe, for now” (, Sept. 20): Reporter Adam Ashton’s article contained useful information regarding two letters I wrote to CalPERS in July, but parts of its text were misleading, as was the headline. The article said in one letter I asked CalPERS to look at reducing benefits for current workers and retirees by moving them into the less generous plans public agencies began offering in 2013 through the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act. The letters I sent were requests for actuarial data on the cost impacts of temporary cost-of-living freezes and moving classic employees into Pension Reform Act plans prospectively. The letters specifically pointed out the actions contemplated would not affect current employees or active members. Changing COLAs can only be done prospectively for people who are not currently retirees. As the Sept. 19 Finance Committee hearing at CalPERS showed, the pension crisis is getting worse for cities. Reviewing data is a critical step in assessing this most significant of fiscal concerns facing our state and its municipalities.


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MOORLACH UPDATE — Iceberg Dead Ahead — September 28, 2017

The sad night the cap and trade bill garnered the necessary two-thirds vote, the Governor signed three of my bills, SB 665, SB 671 and SB 742 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Bad News/Good News — July 18, 2017 ).

Earlier this month, the Governor signed SB 764 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Who Is? — September 13, 2017).

Yesterday, the Governor signed the fifth and final bill we were able to get to his desk, SB 653, and the good news is covered by the Highland Community News in the first piece below (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Legislative Efforts — June 29, 2017 , MOORLACH UPDATE — PACE and HERO — April 30, 2017   and MOORLACH UPDATE — Budget and House of Origin Deadlines — June 1, 2017).

SB 653 is a bill I proposed requiring all 58 County Treasurer-Tax Collectors to post their required published notices on their websites. This would be another good way for taxpayers to find out if they are impacted through the beneficial use of search engines. This is particularly true for escheatment funds that should be refunded to individuals. Why the bill? Well many of my former Treasurer-Tax Collector colleagues needed to be dragged into the 21st century in assisting their constituents. Many complained about the cost and the required expertise. I suggested that they hire a 13-year-old to either cut, paste and add the notice, create a PDF, or assist in providing a link to it. It’s that easy. And Orange County has been doing it for more than a decade.

Last week I was the keynote luncheon speaker for the first California Local Elected Officials (CLEO) conference. This new organization is designed to assist elected officials (see They are also providing material and the second piece below is an excellent sample.

The real financial impacts of having a rapidly rising required defined benefit pension plan contribution in the annual budgets of municipalities is the crowding out of core functions. The theme is simple: “iceberg dead ahead.” The captains of the ships of state in the city world are screaming it and they are working feverishly to avoid it. But, when you go along blissfully, you will hit it. For a refresher course, see (there is some course language).

A Texas cartoonist used the theme recently:

In yesterday’s UPDATE, I lamented that some of the testimony at the CalPERS Finance and Administration Committee meeting wasn’t garnering headlines in local communities. Well, Oroville did today (see or

BONUS: I was interviewed last week by Rick Reiff, literally hours after the conclusion of the 2017 Session. We covered a number of key subjects and it can be seen at

DOUBLE BONUS: To date, the Governor has not addressed any of the top 20 bills Assemblyman Harper and I have recommended he veto (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 Top 20 Veto Worthy Bills — September 22, 2017).

Governor Brown Signs Legislation

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

AB 25 by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks) – Tour buses: modified tour buses.

AB 218 by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) – Local agencies: airports: customer facility charges.

AB 326 by Assemblymember Rudy Salas Jr. (D-Bakersfield) – State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology: physical and sexual abuse awareness training.

AB 465 by Assemblymember Philip Y. Ting (D-San Francisco) – Urban agricultural incentive zones.

AB 515 by Assemblymember Jim L. Frazier Jr. (D-Discovery Bay) – State Highway System Management Plan.

AB 661 by Assemblymember Chad J. Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) – Magnesia Spring Ecological Reserve: Mirage Trail.

AB 712 by Assemblymember Richard H. Bloom (D-Santa Monica) – Civil actions: change of venue.

AB 804 by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) – Controller: internal control guidelines.

AB 910 by Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) – CalWORKs: welfare-to-work activities: hours.

AB 976 by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) – Electronic filing and service.

AB 993 by Assemblymember Catharine Baker (R-Dublin) – Examination of victims of sex crimes.

AB 994 by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) – Health care districts: design-build.

AB 1034 by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) – Government interruption of communications.

AB 1119 by Assemblymember Monique Limόn (D-Santa Barbara) – Developmental and mental health services: information and records: confidentiality.

AB 1149 by Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) – Workforce investment boards: funding.

AB 1286 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) – Airports: alternative customer facility charges.

AB 1396 by Assemblymember Autumn R. Burke (D-Inglewood) – Surrogacy.

AB 1438 by the Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials – State Water Resources Control Board: environmental laboratories: public water systems: certificates and permits: procedures.

AB 1518 by Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber (D-San Diego) – Criminal justice information.

AB 1636 by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) – California Finance Lenders Law: California Deferred Deposit Transaction Law.

AB 1692 by the Committee on Judiciary – Judiciary omnibus.

SB 40 by Senator Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside) – Domestic violence.

SB 367 by Senator Patricia C. Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) – Tidelands and submerged lands: County of Orange.

SB 420 by Senator William W. Monning (D-Carmel) – State summary criminal history information: sentencing information.

SB 448 by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) – Local government: organization: districts.

SB 568 by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) – Primary elections: election date.

SB 653 by Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) – County tax collectors: notices: publication.

SB 658 by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) – Jury selection.

For full text of the bills, visit:

City finance director says Oroville faces specter of bankruptcy

by Stephen Greenhut

SACRAMENTO – Most Californians are aware of the near-calamity at the tallest earthen dam in the nation, which sits east of the Butte County city of Oroville. More than 188,000 residents were evacuated in February after a large portion of the main spillway threatened to give way amid heavy rains. Talk of “Oroville” often centers on an infrastructure crisis and even global warming, as officials discuss ways to protect that city – and others – from catastrophe.

But a major dam’s eroded spillway isn’t the only thing threatening to collapse around the 19,000-population city. During a public hearing at a California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) committee meeting this month, Oroville Finance Director Ruth Wright warned about the city’s rapidly collapsing financial situation.

Thanks in large part to growing pension costs, Wright said that “We’ve been saying the ‘bankruptcy’ word, which is not very popular.” Wright was at the Sacramento meeting with several other city officials from across the state to support a senator’s request that CalPERS provide additional actuarial data regarding pension costs. Sen. John Moorlach, R-Orange County, wanted to know what the savings would be if pensioners had cost-of-living adjustments temporarily capped and if some employees were moved to a less-generous pension tier.

The impetus: Cities of all sizes and financial conditions are facing rapidly growing pension costs. CalPERS continues to increase the rates that cities have to pay into the pension fund, which is leading to cuts in services and layoffs of city employees.

“In the last two years, we’ve reduced our workforce by one-third,” Wright said. “This is how we balanced our budget, it’s how we’re currently operating, and it’s not operating well, let me tell you.” She said the city just negotiated a 10-percent salary reduction in the city’s police officers’ bargaining unit, “which is very, very hard, very sad.”

“Our future projections show that our rates are going to double in seven years and we don’t know how we’re going to face that,” Wright added. “In three to four years, our cash flow is going to be gone. We don’t even know how we’re going to operate past four years.”

Other California cities have gone bankrupt in recent years, including San Bernardino, Stockton and Vallejo. Some others have threatened the “b” word, but have avoided actual bankruptcy. Cities aren’t totally the victims here. Many of them dramatically expanded pension benefits, without accounting for what it would mean. But at least they now are sounding the alarm, as pension costs consume larger portions of their budgets.

Until the state Legislature addresses the expanding pension debt, more cities are going to face the dismal situation that Oroville’s finance director described at the hearing. More cities are not just going to be saying – but declaring – the “b” word.

Here is the link to the full hearing:

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut.

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — What Pension Crisis? — September 27, 2017

I sit on the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee, which held a joint hearing with its Assembly counterpart earlier this year. During the hearing I asked a very difficult question of Dane Hutchings, the legislative representative of the California League of Cities (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 37th in the 37th — August 9, 2017 ).

In shaping my question, I used the “F” word — “fraud” — and it caught the attention of CalPERS and its administration. This started a dialogue, which has been very helpful. So, I recently sent two letters, addressed to two separate CalPERS Board members, requesting very specific information (see and

Instead of writing back with an affirmative response and attaching the requested data, the matter was put on the agenda of this month’s CalPERS Finance and Administrative Committee meeting (see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC’s Newest Landmark Plaque — September 20, 2017 ).

The entire segment of the Committee meeting related to my requests is an amazing watch. To have city managers state that they are facing Chapter 9 bankruptcy and even providing the precise upcoming year they may be filing is a massive disclosure. You would think it would be headline news for the local papers where the cities are located. The California Policy Center certainly thought the discussion was disturbing and provides the piece below.

I’m trying to address the pension crisis in California. It’s getting noticed. Let’s hope the testimony of a dozen plan sponsors wakes up the super majority in the Capitol. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Pursuing Reforms — August 11, 2017 august 11, 2017 john moorlach.

BONUS: If you happen to watch the linked video to the CalPERS meeting, you will observe the public employee unions testify as the concluding witnesses to strong arm those CalPERS Board members who just also happen to be public employee union members. The massive influence of public employee unions in Sacramento is evident and detrimental to the fiscal well being of our state. I discuss this in more detail on Rick Reiff’s most recent Inside OC program and it is worth a watch at

DOUBLE BONUS: I don’t want to be in the “me thinkest thou protesteth too much” category, but crime is going up (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Taken to Task — August 23, 2017). The FBI released the 2016 crime statistics on Monday of this week and the news is not good. Allow me to give you just one of the many links, as I spend a lot of time in Sacramento, at

TRIPLE BONUS: To date, the Governor has not addressed any of the top 20 bills Assemblyman Harper and I have recommended he veto (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 Top 20 Veto Worthy Bills — September 22, 2017).

Cities facing fiscal mess plead with CalPERS as pensions consume budgets

By Steven Greenhut

Sacramento – If you ask the union-controlled California Public Employees’ Retirement System about the state’s looming pension crisis, you’re likely to get this answer: What pension crisis?

But the story was much different at CalPERS’ own Finance and Administration Committee meeting held Sept. 19. City officials from across California warned CalPERS board members about the dire fiscal situation their cities face because the pension debt is consuming larger portions of local budgets. The energetic discussion included 18 speakers, many of them local officials who trekked to Sacramento.

“In Hayward, 68 percent of our unfunded pension cost is retiree benefits,” said Hayward City Council member Sara Lamnin, who pointed out that “this means the promises of the past weren’t paid for, frankly.” Hayward’s future is really troubling. She said that “over the next three fiscal years, the city of Hayward’s revenue is projected to grow 1.4 percent, but our cost for PERS is going to go up 30.5 percent.” Lamnin wasn’t asking for someone to rescue Hayward. Officials just want to know how bad the damage will be. “We ask you for data,” she said.

Oroville Finance Director Ruth Wright said her Butte County city has been forced to cut its workforce by a third and negotiated cuts in police salaries by 10 percent. Oroville expects its cash flow to be gone in three to four years, she said. “We’ve been saying the ‘bankruptcy’ word.”

These city officials were there to support state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, who sent a letter to the CalPERS board of administration requesting detailed answers to two seemingly straightforward actuarial questions.

First, Moorlach wanted to know the financial effect of moving employees from “their current tiers to a PEPRA tier on a going-forward basis.” That would mean providing them with the slightly-less generous pensions offered after the 2013 reforms went into effect. Moorlach also wanted the pension fund to study the cost savings if cost-of-living adjustments to retirees were temporarily suspended until the fund’s liabilities are stabilized. No one is proposing any cuts, but Moorlach was just seeking cost comparison data.

“Cities all across the state of California are gravely concerned about the rising costs of their annual retirement contributions and the growing size of their unfunded actuarial liability,” said Bruce Channing, the city manager for Laguna Hills in Orange County, and chairman of the League of California Cities’ pension-services committee.

He warned of “severe hardship” and cutbacks in staff in many cities if the problem isn’t addressed – and reminded CalPERS officials that “saying we have to invest our way out of this really is not the answer.”

The League’s Dane Hutchings noted a shocking statistic: “I have members who by all accounts are considered financially healthy cities” but their financial models “suggest that by fiscal year ’27-’28 as much as 94 cents of every current dollar of payroll will be allocated to CalPERS contributions.” That’s without accounting for new hires or raises in the coming decade.

Lodi City Manager Steve Schwabauer said his city’s pension costs are expected to double by 2022, which is the equivalent of a fire station and “all of my parks and recreation and all of my library.” These are ominous warnings from actual city officials.

Given CalPERS’ touting of PEPRA as a key reason that the state is “bending the cost curve” regarding pension liabilities, Moorlach’s first request should have been a no-brainer. Why not figure out other PEPRA-related savings possibilities? The second question would make sense, too, if the pension fund were interested in exploring ways to protect cities from potential insolvency rather than simply protecting public employees from any pain.

As expected, CalPERS gave the final say to union officials, who feared that the data would be used to justify lower benefits.

“Yes, it’s painful for employers to deal with those rising costs,” said Jai Sookprasert, a California School Employees Association lobbyist. “It’s doubly more painful for the employees. What part of negotiate, talk to your employees is not clear? … Really, data? This is just data? … Is it data or conjectures?”

So, learning actuarially sound information about what different benefit levels might do to unfunded liabilities is now just a conjecture, at least in the view of some union officials. Apparently, it’s better for local officials not to know what different options will mean for their budgets. They should just pay up and quit their complaining.

The CalPERS board fell in line and didn’t even vote on the request, meaning that Moorlach’s proposal will not be heeded.

In 1999, CalPERS promised that the Legislature’s proposal that would lead to 50-percent retroactive pension increases for public-safety officials across the state wouldn’t cost taxpayers “a dime” because investment returns would make up the difference. The fund was laughably wrong, and their efforts led to the current problems cities across the state are facing.

Now CalPERS and its union allies typically claim that there’s no pension crisis and that Gov. Jerry Brown’s modest PEPRA reform will right the ship. Apparently, there’s no need to worry about what these hard-pressed city officials are saying. But what will they say 10 to 15 years from now, as pension costs gobble up majorities of local budgets and services will be slashed and burned?

For now, denial is the easiest course. CalPERS had a good year with investment returns of 11.2 percent. Likewise, the Democratic-controlled state Legislature totally ignored the pension liabilities and the arguably even-larger problem surrounding soaring retiree-medical costs during its recently concluded legislative session. But the problems only are going to get worse, and other cities are going to hit the fiscal wall.

“The unions will say it wasn’t our fault. We didn’t vote for it. You guys voted for it,” said Sen. Moorlach in an interview Monday. He was shocked by their audacity. No doubt, they’ll also be blaming Wall Street and stingy California taxpayers. But by then the state and cities could be in full crisis mode. Will CalPERS still be in denial if dozens of cities are using about the “b” word?

Steven Greenhut is contributing editor for the California Policy Center. He is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut.

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

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