MOORLACH UPDATE — In The Dark — April 27, 2016

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

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

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

In the dark on debt
Unions oppose debt transparency bill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUR TOWNS

LAGUNA HILLS

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

Christopher Yee cyee  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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