MOORLACH UPDATE — Worst and Vaguest — September 22, 2015

Senator Joel Anderson and I were asked to provide the 20 worst bills on the Governor’s desk waiting for his signature or veto. Our two offices provided 19, giving the publisher one to contribute. The FlashReport provides our recommendations in the first piece below.

To describe today’s second piece below, in the Voice of OC, I will provide you with my preamble for a prior UPDATE, which reflects my tone and frustration over this sad chapter in County history. It was in MOORLACH UPDATE — FPPC Investigation — June 19, 2013 John Moorlach. However, let me state that I have been very impressed with the 2014-15 Orange County Grand Jury and its work.

"When I first started working at the County, the Grand Jury was a revered institution. But, over the past eighteen years, the work product has been dismal and disappointing. Every year, I wonder if the new Grand Jury will step up to the role and provide value in their reports on County government. Sadly, they don’t. If you were to review the Grand Jury’s reports over the last ten years, and score them based on how many recommendations were appreciated and adopted, the results would be disheartening. Consequently, I voted for a Performance Audit Department that would really research and investigate policy, practices and conduct within the County and provide meaningful recommendations for improvements. I also support a robust Internal Audit function to make sure internal controls are the best that they can be. If there are critical issues that need to be addressed, I rely on these two departments to discover, report on, and make recommendations to remedy them. It has become abundantly clear that the Grand Jury has not been a reliable resource in its investigations or observations. Today’s articles deal with this topic.

"The Board addressed Grand Jury remuneration, which is $15 per day by State statute, plus mileage to get to the courthouse every morning. Orange County has been paying $50 per day, plus mileage. It was worth taking the time to reevaluate this compensation arrangement. It was also an opportunity to share how some of us really felt. The first article below from the OC Register fails to mention that I opposed the response to the Grand Jury’s “CalOptima” report. The report, for the most part, is factually accurate. It was the report’s title that was inappropriate. The workmanship of the “Ethical” report is shoddy, as the arguments do not support the conclusion. And the title is irresponsible and offensive. So, I shared my frustrations. The Grand Jury has to step up its game. Maybe it should focus on producing 4 well-researched and beneficial studies rather than 15 marginal reports. Maybe it needs to reevaluate the diversity of its membership. Maybe it needs an “ethics committee” to give the Grand Jury the perspective of “what would a wise person do” before publishing a report.

"It seems that I read about various city council members being arrested in LA County each month in the LA Times. I don’t see that pattern here in the OC. But, after a few inflammatory Grand Jury reports and the inference that as a Board member I am corrupt, I then receive a letter from the Fair Political Practices Commission. Trust me, you don’t want to receive a letter from the FPPC. That’s how incompetent and negligent this Grand Jury and its foreman have been. One observer called this year’s Grand Jury an “epic failure.” That’s too bad, because I’m sure the members are all fine people. But, they lacked leadership. Let’s hope that the 2013-14 Grand Jury can bring some momentum to move the bar up. The Voice of OC provides its take on the Board meeting and the FPPC in the second piece below."

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When we go through hundreds and hundreds of bills to find the ones that we consider to be the most egregious, harmful or inappropriate, it is our hope that a responsible Governor would veto all of them. Remember, we’re talking about the worst bills. If the Governor signs any of the bills listed below, it is bad news for the people of California. This is our tenth year in a row featuring this column. Each year, we partner with two conservative members of the State Legislature – this year is no different. Our thanks go out to both State Senator Joel Anderson and State Senator John Moorlach, and to their staff members, for their hard work in selecting the terrible bills below out of hundreds and hundreds on the Governor’s desk.

Normally our legislative partners compile 20 bills to veto – but this year I took some personal privilege and picked one bill that truly makes me nauseous to highlight first, and so below it are 19 other bills compiled by the Senators. Let me also give an "honorable mention" to a particularly heinous bill already signed by the Governor this year – that had it been on the Governor’s desk now certainly would have made the list. That bill was SB 277 that mandates that young children must be vaccinated with a bevy of required injections or they cannot attend school. This ultimate nanny-state legislation replaced parents with the government, in terms of deciding what and when vaccines are injected into their children.

Without any further ado, below is the FlashReport Top Twenty Bills To Veto, starting with my contribution, and then the 19 bills from the Senators.
Flash

THE FLASHREPORT TOP TWENTY WORST BILLS
WORTHY OF THE GOVERNOR’S VETO

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As compiled by Senator Joel Anderson and Senator John Moorlach
(with some assistance from FR Publisher Jon Fleischman)

Please check back to see the status of these bills. As of today, the Governor has acted on one of them. When he is done, we will grade Governor Brown on his performance. The Governor’s "letter grade" will be computed using the following scale… If he vetoes 90% or more, the Governor got an "A", 80% – 89% a "B", 70 – 79% a "C", 60 – 69% a "D" and below that, an "F"…

First, from Jon Fleischman…

1. AB 2 – The Return of Cronyism And Property Rights Abuse

A few years ago Governor Brown signed legislation ending redevelopment agencies, and in doing so he eliminated one of the most abusive government programs in California history. These agencies, formed by local governments and funded by diverting tax income, allowed in too many cases for local politicians to give gifts of taxpayer funds to their developer friends, who in turn would help fund the careers of the politicians. In some cases the local politicians would use the power of eminent domain to confiscate private property from one party, to then grant it to another party – all a part of some sort of grotesque parody of SimCity. Years later, this legislation would, in essence, bring this terrible system back into existence.

And from the Senators…

Death and taxes. That’s what was on the legislative agenda this year. While major tax bills did not pass to the Governor, the end result added unions, religion, voter turnout and environmental regulation to the list of worst bills.

If the Governor is unhappy because his agenda was largely stalled by legislative leaders, there’s, fortunately, plenty of opportunity for the Governor to express his displeasure by vetoing some really bad bills that did make it to his desk.

In fact, the Governor could abandon his plans to raise taxes and he could fund Medi-Cal provider rates, developmentally disabled programs, in-home supportive services, as well as some transportation infrastructure improvements, if he vetoes these bad bills and the others on his desk that propose millions more in spending by the state and adds in the $500 million just reported as unexpected revenue from the first two months of the fiscal year. Governor Brown’s actions in the next few weeks will show Californians that if his priorities are truly with these core government functions they should have been in the budget in the first place.

Below is a list of the most veto-worthy bills from the 2015 legislative session.

2. SB 350 – The California "Economic Cooling" Bill

Yes, this is the Governor’s global warming legislation. What this really does is reorganize California’s economy to be even less competitive (if that’s even possible) with the other 49 states, requiring an even greater centralized government approach while abandoning market-based incentives.

This bill mandates that, within 15 years, 50 percent of our energy will come from ‘renewable’ sources. Never mind that, under this mandate, energy costs are estimated to significantly increase for families and businesses. The bill also mandates that all commercial buildings become 50 percent more energy efficient within 15 years. Again, more costs and fewer incentives for businesses to locate or expand in California.

The bottom line is that these are nice goals, but our state is already the least economically competitive in the nation. Without other states making the same moves, we’re just driving more businesses and jobs from California.

3. AB 1461 – Voter Fraud Expansion Through Motor Voter Registration

This bill allows every person who has a driver’s license to also register to vote. Similar to Obama’s call to require fines for those who don’t vote, this is a cynical attempt by Democrats to make voting compulsory. What this bill really provides is more opportunity for fraud. The more uninterested people are in being registered to vote, yet not tracking their ballots, the more opportunity for unscrupulous political operatives to vote and return that ballot for that person, without their knowledge or consent. If a person is not responsible enough to register to vote, then maybe they will not be responsible enough to safeguard that ballot.

4. AB 1288 – Expanding the Unelected, Unaccountable Air Resources Board

AB 1288 would allow the Senate and Assembly to add one member each to the all-powerful California Air Resources Board (CARB), which has been given free rein to enforce AB 32 global warming energy tax and rationing policies, as well as other activities. CARB would be the chief engineer behind any regulations to implement SB 350 (see above). CARB has already made the unilateral decision to add gas and diesel to the requirements of AB 32, which has spiked California’s gas prices to the highest per-gallon cost in the nation. Adding more unelected, unaccountable left-leaning members only worsens the situation for California families.

5. SB 331 – Protecting Union Closed Door Sweetheart Deal Negotiations

Local governments have been adopting Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN), which requires public employee union contract negotiations to be held in public. No more backroom, secret deals. In response, Unions pushed SB 331, which enacts an onerous and unattainable set of requirements and costly time delays on all local government contracts – and applies ONLY for those governments who have implemented COIN. The goal is to de-incentivize the spread of COIN, and eliminate COIN where it has been adopted. Unions win; taxpayers lose.

6. SB 99 – The Caltrans Engineers’ Union Pay Spike

This bill gives a 7 percent pay hike to Caltrans engineers and allows them to quadruple the cash-out of unused vacation time from 20 hours to 80 hours. If you missed it, the Legislative Analyst ripped Caltrans three weeks ago for careless accounting and poor/non-existent cost and budget tracking. Then, two weeks ago, the State Auditor released a report showing that one Caltrans engineer had golfed 55 days "on the clock" and supervisors signed his time cards without being able to verify his time. How can we trust Caltrans with this new deal allowing quadruple cash-out of vacation time, when they obviously struggle to distinguish when an employee is working, and when they are not?

7. AB 775 – The "You Must Counsel for Abortions" Law

This law requires crisis pregnancy centers, and other services that assist with adoption and encourage life for babies, to now post in their clinics a bold statement advising women of the availability of free abortions at Planned Parenthood. Basically, if you are opposed to abortion, and you operate a clinic that counsels young ladies on the options for keeping their baby, you no longer have the right to advocate your position without also advocating for abortion services. The reverse does not apply to Planned Parenthood. The First Amendment continues to lose its standing. Is mandatory abortion advocacy for churches and private religious schools next?

8. AB 768 – Stop Professional Baseball Players from Chewing Tobacco

One of the biggest threats to California’s families is the fact that some professional baseball players use chewing tobacco. Fortunately, all Californians will now be saved because this bill outlaws such use at baseball stadiums – a policy for which many stadiums have already agreed to, on their own terms, without the government telling them that they had to. Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is.

9. AB2x 15 – Throw Grandma from the Train

Healthcare sure is cheaper if old people would just take the death with dignity pill. Of course, that is not what the author of this legislation said, but who is to stop an unprincipled son or daughter from encouraging death for the ailing mother – just because care is expensive or time consuming? This bill allows a ‘terminally ill’ patient to choose death from a doctor- the same doctor that likely took the Hippocratic Oath promising to save lives, not end them. One interesting fact: the drug approved for this bill was deemed "inhumane" by the State for death row inmates. Imagine that! This bill is a dangerous step down a slippery slope.

10. AB 1293 – Saving Government Employees from Economic Downturns

Among other stipulations, this bill prohibits the government from saving money by contracting out for services when "civil servants" (AKA government employees) might be displaced. Public employee unions win; taxpayers lose.

11. AB 1354 – Government Intrusion to Your Business Payroll Records

This bill requires those businesses that contract with the State must provide state inspectors with complete access to their payroll data. Read that as: what they pay each employee, who gets what vacation time, etc. Want to know why California has the nation’s highest poverty rate and one of the slowest economies? It is bills like this that drive businesses and jobs out of California.

12. AB 465 – Let Every Employee Sue Their Employer

This bill prohibits employers and employees from exercising their freedom to enter into contracts stipulating that disputes will be resolved by arbitration. Employers that are already besieged by frivolous lawsuits must now put themselves in harm’s way because they will be required to hire those prospective employees that refuse to agree, in advance, to an arbitration dispute resolution. What employer would ever consider California a viable option?

13. AB 504 – The Stop Effective Local Solutions Measure

Civic San Diego is a non-profit entity that the City of San Diego has used to streamline development project review and approval. They’ve been very efficient in examining projects, issuing permits and moving economic development forward. In the process, they have attracted billions of new investment to San Diego. So, what does the Legislature do? Shut it down, of course. This bill limits the planning and approval processes in which Civic San Diego and similar entities can be involved. Why? Because the labor union bosses believe Civic San Diego is not shoveling enough taxpayer money into their coffers. Unions win; taxpayers lose.

14. AB 622 – Blindfold Employers During the Interview Process

This bill stops employers from using E-verify during the application process to determine an applicant’s eligibility for employment. In other words, employers are not allowed to know if an applicant is an illegal immigrant. Enough said.

15. SB 292 – Homeowners Paying for Increased Pension Contributions

Due to grandfathered laws in a number of jurisdictions, special property taxes are used to fund the county’s employee and employer pension contributions to CalPERS. In other words, the public employee union members pay nothing, and the taxpayers pay everything. As pension obligations have skyrocketed, taxpayers and property owners have been forced to cover higher pension contributions.

That should have changed when Governor Brown signed pension reform a few years ago requiring that both public employees and public employers contribute a 50/50 cost share for their pensions. This bill exempts from those reforms, any city or county that pays its pension costs with property tax revenues. Public employee unions win; taxpayers lose (as do their local schools and other services dependent upon property taxes).

16. AB 561 – Ag Labor Appeal Ransom

If you’re an employer, you’re automatically suspect. At least, that’s how this legislation treats you. AB 561 changes the appeals process for decisions from the Agriculture Labor Relations Board (ALRB). If ALRB rules against and fines an employer, that employer may not appeal the decision unless they first post a bond equaling the full amount of the assessed fine. This legislation completely undermines due process and creates a considerable barrier to an employer seeking an appeal of a bad ALRB ruling. Do you think the public employee unions are subject to such treatment? Of course not.

17. AB 888 – Microbeads and Macro-Problems

This bill bans the sale and distribution of personal care products within the state of
California that contain plastic microbeads, which are used to exfoliate or cleanse in a rinse-off product. After three years of arm-twisting, this bill has finally passed the legislature and it on its way to the Governor’s desk. Manufacturers had asked for reasonable amendments that would allow them time to develop synthetic biodegradable microbead substitutes. But, as usual, the legislature knows far more about business and science than does the expert who has to survive on business and science.

18. AB 692 – Buying Low Carbon Fuel (Since No One Else Will)

This bill requires the state of California to buy "very low carbon fuel" for its fleet of vehicles, and increasing by one percent every year the amount purchased. The good news is that this should be easy, because no one else is buying such fuel. The bad news is that "very low carbon fuel" is also "very high expense fuel." We’ll spend millions more in taxpayer dollars to be the only state in the nation to buy and use such fuel for our state owned vehicle fleet. Not one other state in the nation wants to follow California’s lead. Yet, several are happy to come here and steal California’s businesses because of such unilateral carbon laws that put California in the high-expense fringe.

19. SB 682 – The Sentence is Higher Court Costs

To deal with smaller budgets, many courts have turned to private contractors to fill their work needs. This bill prohibits courts from contracting for work unless the contracts: A) can demonstrably reduce costs, and B) do not achieve reduced costs because of lower contractor pay rates. Excuse me? Must save money, but must not save money because the contractor pay rates are less? Basically, this bill kills contracting out by courts. It is amazing how creative public employee union allies become in their attempts to end competition from private, outside contractors.

20. SB 376 – Block Contracting-Out for Cost Savings

This bill bans the University of California from contracting out for needed services unless the private contractor has pay and benefits that match the UC system’s current levels. This bill kills the incentive to contract out and save money, and UC officials estimate a cost of $36 million or more yearly to implement this bill. Unions win; taxpayers lose.

State Watchdog Closes Probe Into Supervisors, CalOptima Board

By Tracy Wood

The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission has closed a conflict-of-interest investigation it launched in 2013 into county supervisors and CalOptima board members and will take no action.

“After reviewing the minutes and meetings of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, the Enforcement Division has determined that the allegations were too vague (to) establish that you had a conflict of interest,” the commission wrote Sept. 4 to then-supervisors John Moorlach, Shawn Nelson, Bill Campbell, and Pat Bates, all Republicans.

State Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove), who served as both a supervisor and CalOptima board member, received a closure letter through her lawyer, Brian Hildreth.

Nelson still serves on the board.

Separately, the investigation determined there was “insufficient evidence” of conflict of interests involving the CalOptima board members because “none of the decisions reviewed during our investigation were in proceedings involving a license, permit, or other entitlement for use pending before the CalOptima Board,” a requirement for conflict-of-interest violations.

The FPPC investigation stemmed from two 2013 county grand jury reports, one titled "CalOptima Burns While Majority of Supervisors Fiddle;" and the other “A Call for Ethical Standards: Corruption in Orange County.”

The CalOptima report focused on Nguyen’s efforts to overhaul the board so it included a permanent member from the hospital industry as well as other medical professionals. The medical industry contributed significantly to her supervisorial campaigns. The grand jury also examined the actions of the Hospital Association of Southern California and two CalOptima lawyers .

The report that focused on corruption in county government called for creation of a county ethics commission.

“In a healthy ethics environment,” the grand jury wrote, “leaders are not afraid of an independent ethics program because they understand that the best measure is to do everything possible to prevent officials and employees from creating an appearance of impropriety.”

The two reports provided fodder for county political watchdog Shirley Grindle who has long advocated for a local ethics commission. On Tuesday, the supervisors will discuss a ballot proposal authored by Grindle and other good government advocates.

Moorlach described the reports as the work product of an overzealous grand jury.

“So they investigated a vague thing and said it was vague at the end of the day,” said Moorlach, who is now a state senator representing Costa Mesa. “That grand jury was certainly a low point in the history of grand juries in Orange County. So I’m glad this chapter’s closed, but there’s no surprise to the closure for me.”

CalOptima board members who received closure letters were Chairman Mark Refowitz, head of the county Health Care Agency, Vice Chairman Lee Penrose, president and ceo of St. Jude Hospital, doctors Viet Dang and Samara Cardenas, former board member Steve Knoblock, bank branch vice president Peter Agarwal, nonprofit executives Ellen Anh and Tricia Nguyen and former Social Services Agency director Michael Riley.

Supervisors are scheduled Sept. 22 to reappoint Penrose to a second four-year term on the CalOptima board.

Last year the District Attorney’s office cleared Nguyen of criminal conflict of interest charges tied to her role on the CalOptima board.

“In our review of the allegations, we concluded that no criminal conflict of interest laws were violated by Janet Nguyen in her position as a Cal Optima [sic] Board member,” declared the Feb. 4, 2014 letter to another Nguyen lawyer, Stephen Larson of Los Angeles.

Separately, FPPC has an ongoing political money laundering investigation into Nguyen’s 2012 campaign for county Supervisor. According to court documents, six of her donors admitted to being illegally reimbursed for their campaign contributions.

You can contact Tracy Wood at twood and follow her on Twitter: @TracyVOC.

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

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