Steven Greenhut

Losing your pension? CalPERS wants to shift blame to cities

The nation’s largest state pension fund, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, still is reeling from bruising publicity it received after it slashed the pensions for workers in …

Will new sexual harassment rules turn corner on abuse scandal?

Will a newly announced set of California Senate rules for handling sexual harassment claims help change a Capitol culture that some blame for fostering the current sexual harassment …

Destroying free speech in service of abortion

Remember the days when Democratic politicians at least pretended that, although they wanted abortions to be “safe and legal,” they also wanted them to be “rare”? Those days are …

Unfolding sex scandal offers lessons about California’s political hypocrisy

There are few areas of private life that California’s legislators won’t at least attempt to meddle, which makes it that much more infuriating when the Capitol crowd can’t …

Take an adventure into the delightful world of mezcal

After a recent party at a friend’s house, our host opened the small Stolichnaya bottle and the smell was overwhelming. The nose was a cross between a tire …

LA school bullies back off, but are crushing charters

The nation’s second-largest school system, the Los Angeles Unified School District, is pretty much everything you would expect from a hulking, union-controlled, wasteful, big urban school monopoly. But two …

California pension funds pushed by politicians to divest from gun industry

California’s two major pension funds, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), control more than $500 billion in total assets, making …

LAUSD can’t top its high-performing charter schools, so it’s tormenting them to death with bureaucratic rules

The Los Angeles Unified School District and some of the nation’s highest-performing charter schools are engaged in what one report has called a “game of chicken” – with the fate …

New insurance lines will help emerging marijuana market

The end of Prohibition in 1933 was greeted with celebrations, as newspapers slapped large-type headlines on their front pages declaring, for instance, that “Prohibition Ends At Last.” President …

Daly’s cynical bill shows why public-sector abuses are rampant

Whenever I write about some of the absurd benefits and gamesmanship that flourish within California’s public sector, people write back in disbelief. They have no idea the many …

Sex scandal embroils California Capitol

Sex scandals are, of course, not confined to members of any particular party or worldview, despite efforts by the Left to portray them as a result of patriarchy and …

Crime rates stable after state’s passage of sentencing reforms

To deal with federal court orders demanding a reduction in prison populations, California officials – and state voters, via initiative – passed a series of sentencing reforms over the past …

In good times and in bad, California’s pension fund managers win fat bonuses

California’s top pension funds have suffered through a few cycles of bleak investment returns and plummeting funding ratios, so we can’t blame them for wanting to celebrate after …

We can’t reduce housing costs by wishing for rent control

The term “magical thinking” describes people who believe, as one psychology related website puts it, “that one’s own thoughts, wishes or desires can influence the external world.” It’s the …

Report gives Alaska lawmakers tools to defend bold justice reform

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street Justice and National Security Policy Director Arthur Rizer. Alaska’s lawmakers showed a remarkable amount of mettle in 2016 when they …

Jeff Sessions pushes back on free-speech limits

After Donald Trump was elected president, scores of students at Pierce College in Los Angeles, part of the nation’s largest community college system, walked out on classes, marched and peacefully …

Lyft driver’s past conviction doesn’t undermine background check system

The taxi industry and other foes of transportation network companies are sure to jump on a recent news story about a Chicago Lyft driver who passed the company’s …

Napa fires highlight huge disparities between wealthy firefighters and ‘slave laborers’

As Napa’s deadly wildfires have subsided, newspapers and politicians are asking an interesting question in an indelicate way. How come the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, …

Deputies seek workers comp, but what about other concert-goers?

The Orange County deputy sheriffs’ union president, in a Monday interview with the Orange County Register, made a shockingly cynical statement about the men and women he represents. …

Gov. Brown vetoes few bills – latest ones get conservative praise

California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed only 118 of the 957 bills that came before his desk in the recently concluded legislative session, but some of his final vetoes earned a …

Brown’s few vetoes: This is as good as it gets

Since the 1970s, when “Moonbeam” first was elected governor, commentators—including this one—have remarked on his “canoe theory” of politics. You paddle a little to the left and a little to …

Improper state activities pale in comparison to some of the ‘proper’ ones

After reading through the recently completed state audit of “improper activities by state agencies and employees,” one might wrongly conclude that California’s massive bureaucracy of 131,000-plus employees is …

Lawmakers wrongly blame justice reform for crime uptick

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street National Security and Justice Policy Director Arthur Rizer. Some Alaska politicians are trying to roll back sensible, money-saving reforms that improve …

Gov. Brown signs bill that could energize insurance markets

Given the far-reaching nature of some of the bills that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in recent weeks, it's no surprise that a relatively minor tweak to …

Deadly California wildfires raise needed debate about current spending

In the days before Facebook and other social media, it was a matter of course to wait a few days after tragedies strike before making political and policy …

Harris deserves praise for seeking middle ground on sex-trafficking bill

The Sacramento Bee implied in a recent article that Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.,  was being inconsistent or unduly influenced by Silicon Valley campaign supporters for her reluctance to …

No coercing state to reform pension funds

Gov. Jerry Brown has been signing hundreds of bills, but this week he vetoed two that would have banned smoking and vaping along 300 miles of California’s coastline …

Forget the scary pension future; study confirms the crisis is hitting now

Debates about California’s pension crisis almost always focus on the big numbers – the hundreds of billions of dollars (and, by some estimates, more than $1 trillion) in unfunded …

Conservatives pose new threat to free markets and tech economy

It almost goes without saying that liberal Democrats are hostile to private industry and entrepreneurship, as they introduce tax-raising, regulation-laden, job-killing bills that earn the ire of the hard-pressed business …

Car Ban: Yet another gaseous proposal

California Assemblyman Phil Ting managed to get some positive coverage in newspapers across the state and in major news publications across the country last week. That was quite …

Officials wrestle with ways to boost California’s voter turnout

The state’s voter-turnout rates hit the skids in the 2014 election cycles, with only 25 percent of registered voters casting a ballot in the June primary and only …

California housing plan is a dud, but local rules are biggest problem

Perhaps it’s the sign of Capitol hubris, but lawmakers in the waning days of the legislative session touted their “housing package” as a big part of the solution …

California GOP’s RINOs retake the leadership

The newly announced California Assembly’s Republican leadership team is, as I reported, a “who’s who” of “Republicans in name only” (RINOs) — a poke in the eye of …

City finance director says Oroville faces specter of bankruptcy

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 …

Technology-related bills struggled during recent legislative session

California’s leaders often point to the burgeoning high-tech industry as evidence of the state’s strong, future-oriented economy. The industry’s ongoing success helps Democrats rebut arguments from conservatives who say that …

Cities facing fiscal mess plead with CalPERS as pensions consume budgets

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 …

Optometrists eye government to shut down app-based competition

Here we go again. Every time an innovative new industry pops up to take advantage of the boundless opportunities offered by phone applications and the internet, some threatened …

Legislature raised taxes, did bidding of state’s unions

California lawmakers spent the preceding months of the recently concluded legislative session reforming public-employee pensions and other unfunded liabilities that are crushing local governments. They reduced the state’s …

Letter: Oppose California A.B. 1513, disseminating home health aides’ personal info

Sept. 22, 2017 Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. State Capitol, Office of the Governor Sacramento, CA 95814  Re:           Assembly Bill 1513 (Kalra) Dear Governor Brown, The R Street Institute must regretfully oppose A.B. 1513 …

Letter: Oppose California A.B. 1505, inclusionary zoning requirements

Sept. 22, 2017 The Honorable Edmund G. Brown Jr. State Capitol, Office of the Governor Sacramento, CA 95814  Re:           Assembly Bill 1505 (Bloom)  Dear Governor Brown: The R Street Institute strongly opposes A.B. …

Letter: Opposition to California A.B. 1455, exempting collective bargaining records from disclosure

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown Jr. State Capitol, Office of the Governor Sacramento, CA 95814 Re:           Assembly Bill 1455 (Bocanegra) Dear Governor Brown The R Street Institute must regretfully oppose A.B. 1455 …

It’s Leftward Ho — and No End in Sight

California’s legislative session has, mercifully, come to a close. The big takeaway, from a national political perspective, is that the state’s Democratic leadership has thrown down the gauntlet at …

End of session defined by higher taxes, anti-Trump and union priorities

California’s legislative session, which completed its work in the wee hours Saturday morning, was one of the more controversial ones in years, given the degree to which the Democratic …

California’s soaring poverty rates tied to its fiscal irresponsibility

The U.S. Census Bureau’s latest statistics, released this month, find that California’s poverty rate remains the highest in the nation, despite dipping ever so slightly. The reason is no …

There’s nothing funny about Trump’s troubling policing edicts

During a July speech to police in Long Island, Donald Trump joked that when officers “put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head” that “you can …

Will consumer privacy initiatives slow the internet economy?

As the legislative session ends, California political junkies will soon turn their attention to the slate of initiatives making their way to the November 2018 ballot. One of …

Unions threaten state’s one economic bright spot

In a Meet the Press interview in March, Gov. Jerry Brown blasted the Trump administration’s threat to cut off funds to California if it becomes a “sanctuary state” for illegal immigrants. …

Bill would make meal-delivery services ripe for union organizing

One of California’s burgeoning “new economy” business models is the meal-subscription plan, by which companies such as Blue Apron send recipes and prepackaged gourmet ingredients to subscriber’s homes – everything …

Don’t be alarmed if California’s housing package makes things worse

I’ve occasionally quoted journalist H.L. Mencken’s quip that the “whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) …

Bill would revive California’s redevelopment agencies

California’s redevelopment agencies were a fixture on the local political landscape for six decades, as they guided development policies and grabbed “tax increment financing” that localities used to …

Resolving to ignore Chinese abuses

The California Legislature isn’t shy about taking meaningless moral positions on national and international issues. It’s therefore no surprise that legislators returning from summer recess have been touting …

‘Cherry picking’? Union-run schools dump struggling kids on charters

Teachers’ union leaders hoping to discount the runaway academic success of charter schools have claimed charters lure the best-performing kids, leaving traditional, union-run public schools to handle poor-performing …

Snitch scandal denies justice, but DA and sheriff blame others

The Orange County public has been sadly tolerant for years of disturbing scandals in its Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office. The reason for this, I believe, is …

Here come more tax increases!

The California Supreme Court this week issued a stunning blow to California’s taxpayers with a convoluted ruling that lets local governments collude with public-employee unions to raise certain taxes without …

Deputies’ pension and pay deals driving Southern California ‘contract’ cities to brink

More than a decade ago, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department offered a good value to cities that wanted to provide police services without having to operate their own …

Santa Ana squanders its budget on pointless union giveaway

Talk to almost any city or school district official, and it won’t take long before the poor-mouthing begins. Budgets are stretched to the bone. There’s barely enough money …

Legislature is back and focused on housing, recall and bail

California’s Legislature is back from its recess and legislators kicked off the session by focusing on two highly partisan matters. Assembly Republicans first voted to keep Chad Mayes as Republican …

Breaking up Is hard to do

I'm not sure how Californians managed during the Legislature’s recent recess, but now that lawmakers are back at the Capitol, they are busy “fixing” the state’s pressing problems. They will …

TAPped out: The method to CalPERS’ madness toward tiny Sierra County city

Observers have wondered in recent months why the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the nation’s largest state pension fund and one of Wall Street’s most muscular financial players, …

New internet tax threatens privacy of Washington customers

In their zeal to shake a few more tax dollars out of Washington residents' pockets, state lawmakers are brushing aside legitimate privacy concerns raised recently by civil-liberties groups. …

California can’t fix its housing problems

Even California’s liberal Democrats are starting to understand that the state’s housing crisis is fundamentally a supply-and-demand problem. Home prices have soared to astronomical levels, with a median price above …

San Diego mayor offers suggestions for future of state GOP

Even Republicans admit the state GOP is something of a rudderless ship these days. The party doesn’t control any constitutional offices. Democrats have supermajorities in both houses of …

From well-funded pensions to basket case, San Francisco’s voters are to blame

The following op-ed was co-authored by David Schwartzman, a policy research fellow at the California Policy Center and a senior at Hillsdale College. Pension reformers had for years pointed to …

Orange County residents learn the steep price of coddling bad cops

If the Orange County Board of Supervisors votes to appeal the $2.25 million jury verdict recently assessed against the county in the case of a deputy accused of …

CalPERS’ divestment goals in crosshairs as coal stocks soar

A newly released report from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System confirms that, fulfilling the Legislature’s directive to divest from coal-related investments, the pension fund has now largely exited from …

Same old story as Loyalton’s woes echo growing pension crisis

The tiny Sierra Nevada mountain town of Loyalton, Calif.—population: 862—has become the poster child for cities that want to check out of the California Public Employee’s Retirement System, …

Anaheim’s ‘trigger’ win shines light on dysfunctional system

Years ago, during a debate with a public school superintendent over the issue of educational choice, I suggested that we shut down the public schools in their entirety. …

Has bullet train been hoisted on its own petard?

California officials are notorious for ladling on one environmental regulation after another, forcing developers to spend years or even decades producing waist-deep environmental-impact reports and dealing with endless …

San Francisco voters may have chance to overturn vaping ban

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted in June to make the city the first in the country to impose a total sales ban on flavored tobacco products, as similar …

In policing and teaching, union rules protect workers at expense of public

America’s public school systems are notorious for their rubber rooms. That’s where teachers deemed unfit to work in a classroom pass the time as their disciplinary actions or terminations …

Mayes’ cap-and-trade misstep reverberates in Orange County races

Assembly GOP Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley is facing renewed pressure from party activists to resign his leadership post after he and six other Republican Assembly members …

Be very afraid, as Democrats ‘fix’ the housing crisis

It’s common to hear complaints about a “do nothing” Congress, but California’s Legislature has the opposite problem. It wants to do just about everything. Whether it’s fighting global warming or creating …

Democrats and Republicans see different solutions to California housing crisis

Before the recent legislative recess, California Democratic leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown announced their intention to tackle one of the state’s biggest crises: housing affordability. It’s the rare instance where …

Union bill will drive up counties’ costs of providing services

Municipal governments exist to provide essential services, such as law enforcement, firefighting, parks and recreation, street repairs and programs for the poor and homeless. But as pension, health-care and …

No surprise that unions are eager for new voting system

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and a host of union officials are savaging the Republican-controlled Orange County Board of Supervisors for its recent rejection of a plan …

Kinder, gentler GOP embraces ‘cap and trade’

California Republican Assembly Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley ought to be embarrassed today, and not just because of the front-page Sacramento Bee coverage about his alleged affair with former GOP …

GOP legislators unlikely to pay price for cap-and-trade vote

As the California Legislature approached a late-night Monday vote to extend the state’s climate-change-fighting cap-and-trade system, the Capitol buzz focused on Jacqui Irwin of Thousand Oaks. The Democratic assemblywoman was …

Cap-and-trade passage is about raising taxes, divvying up the spoils

What were Gov. Jerry Brown, legislative Democrats and eight Republicans thinking Monday, as they voted to extend the state’s cap-and-trade system for another decade, something that will impose higher gas …

How California softened its ‘tough-on-crime’ approach

California has a long history of pioneering criminal-justice reforms. From the 1960s to the early 2000s, such reforms mostly toughened the state's approach to handling criminals, with some …

CA Legislature seeks data on race, sexual orientation of lobbyists

A letter late last month from the state Legislature’s six special-interest caucuses asking California lobbying firms to provide legislators with detailed demographic data has sparked debate and controversy …

Gutting of oversight bill puts kibosh on needed police reform

There are two rules of thumb to keep in mind when following the California Legislature. First, lawmakers love to prattle about pie-in-the-sky issues, such as halting global warming, but …

Losing their gun rights with barely a whimper

Gun-rights activists often express the view that Americans will not easily give up their rights to gun ownership even if the laws eventually outlaw — or at least …

Expect unions to use good returns to deflect attention from growing problem

California’s fiscal watchdogs are bracing for the forthcoming press statements from the nation’s largest state-run pension fund, and from the public-sector unions that depend on the system to …

Teacher-tenure reform shaping up as big education fight this year

Despite the oft-discussed need for education reform in California, the state Legislature will only consider one major reform bill this year. Even that bill’s passage is uncertain, given …

Hard-pressed rural Californians try civil-rights approach

Do rural residents have a constitutional right to reasonable political representation, or is that reserved only for big-city residents? That question is at the heart of a recent …

Legislature’s scary precedent: Giving unions private workers’ cell numbers, home addresses

Even those Capitol observers who are aware of the degree to which the Democratic-controlled Legislature is in the tank for public-sector unions might be shocked by the latest bill that's …

State shouldn’t meddle in Fullerton development project

California’s latest budget has been the source of outrage for a lot of big reasons. The $125 billion general fund busts spending records. It’s built upon the backs …

California Democrats focus on virtue-signaling

Politicians in several states this week have had a great time laughing at the latest zaniness implemented in California, and who can blame them? “California may be able to …

Assembly speaker shelves single-payer health bill

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, an avowed supporter of single-payer health care, nevertheless announced last week that he was pulling the plug on a Senate-passed measure that would …

Union dues hike spotlights need for high-court intervention

A recent action by one of nation’s largest public-employee unions illustrates the importance of an Illinois case that might make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court sometime …

Gutting the state’s tax board is bad news for taxpayers

When I first learned about the existence of something called the California Board of Equalization, it sounded like something that might have existed in the novel, “Animal Farm.” …

Distressed city exits bankruptcy, but more distress ahead

Officials for the decrepit city of San Bernardino are touting the great news that, after five long and tumultuous years, the city this week officially exited bankruptcy. Starting …

Is California budget as ‘balanced and progressive’ as Gov. Brown suggests?

The California Assembly and Senate have until Thursday to approve the budget deal announced by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, but there’s little uncertainty about the outcome. The …

Governor, legislators spend more and ignore obstacles to reform

Legislators announced a budget deal last week that spends a record $125 billion in the general fund. But most interesting isn’t what’s in the deal, but what isn’t. There’s …

Brown’s union ploy shows unions still fear end to mandatory dues

On first blush, the latest effort by Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislators to give public-employee unions access to public agencies to hold “orientation” seminars with new hires …

Prison unions are punishing California taxpayers … here’s how

If you ever wondered what’s wrong with California’s state government, then mull over this simple example: While California cuts its prison population and staff, it’s increasing the amount of money …

Don’t include vaping in bans on flavored-tobacco sales

San Francisco Bay Area residents often are proud of the region’s progressive approach to social issues to a degree that approaches smugness. Unlike those rubes in the nation’s …

Assembly speaker gives public the finger

For a stellar example of the disdain with which some California legislators treat the public, consider a series of votes that Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, scheduled right before …

Is Assembly speaker playing game of chicken over 72-hour rule?

California voters in November overwhelmingly passed Proposition 54, a constitutional amendment to promote transparency by requiring all bills in their “final form” to be published online for 72 hours …

Prison unions punish California taxpayers

If you ever wondered what’s wrong with California’s state government, then mull over this simple example: While California cuts its prison population and staff, it’s increasing the amount of money …

Huntington Beach tries to squelch democratic reform

After giving a speech a few years ago, I was approached by an activist who wanted to tell me about what he believes is California’s most significant political …

Sacramento discovers a housing ‘crisis’

Nineteen years ago, I made the trek from a small, industrial city in Ohio to Orange County, California, to take a job at a large daily newspaper. Oddly …

Gov. Brown’s pension plan gets mixed reviews from reformers

Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature mostly have avoided tackling the state’s unfunded pension liabilities, even though these taxpayer-backed debts to pay for pension promises to state and …

Police misconduct undermines justice and costs taxpayers plenty

News reports last week suggest the city of Oakland may be ready to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the teenage woman at the heart of a sex-abuse …

Hard to remove the politics from the snitch scandal

There are few politicians who have been on the receiving end of my sharp pen more often than county supervisor and former Assemblyman Todd Spitzer. If you don’t …

Report: Single-payer health care in California would cost double state budget

During the California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento last weekend, the spiciest news was outgoing chairman John Burton dropping an f-bomb on a group of activists demanding that …

California wants to make healthcare a ‘right’

A Bay Area Assemblyman got an earful last week as he pushed a largely symbolic bill that would have made it legal for California public employees to be members …

Teachers’ unions losing the long war over parental choice

Supporters of charter schools, homeschooling and other forms of school “choice” are so used to fighting in the trenches against the state’s muscular teachers’ unions that they often …

Bail-reform needed given justice system’s realities

Virtually every American has watched enough TV cop dramas to know about the Miranda warning (“You have the right to remain silent …”) to understand that defendants are …

Letter: Support California S.B. 182

On behalf of the R Street Institute, I write to support Senate Bill 182, the Transportation Network Company (TNC) Single Business License Act. We applaud this bill, which is …

San Francisco sues Uber in battle over driver privacy

The City of San Francisco filed suit last week against the ridesharing service Uber after the company filed a motion in court to block the release of a …

Forget fiscal responsibility: Jerry Brown embraces pension shell game

The Jerry Brown administration last week released its revised May budget and, lo and behold, it has finally decided to (kind of, sort of) tackle the state’s massive and growing …

Idaho vacation-rental law is a model for the nation

Most neighborhoods will experience the occasional problem resident. There’s the person who throws a loud party late into the night, leaves junk in the front yard, lines the …

Fight over ‘commies’ shows ongoing Capitol silliness

When I was a precocious teenager, I worked at a book store in a shopping mall and was responsible for stocking the politics section with books. For sheer …

Ridesharing a victim of Alaska’s budget battle

As Alaska's legislative session ends, some perplexing in-house political gamesmanship has kept a popular bipartisan measure from making it to the House floor. It’s a shame, because freedom-loving …

UC’s Napolitano digs a deeper hole

University of California President Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor and secretary of Homeland Security under Barack Obama, showed off her political skill at a joint legislative oversight hearing last …

Auditor spurs calls to combat disabled-parking spot abuse

California has nearly 25 million passenger vehicles, yet hands out a whopping 2.9 million disabled-person parking plates and placards. Anecdotal evidence—i.e., watching those healthy-seeming drivers parking in the disabled …

Letter: Support California AB 186

Dear Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer: On behalf of the R Street Institute, I write in support of Assembly Bill 186 (Eggman), as amended March 23, 2017. This measure would allow cities …

Letter: Support California SB 421

Dear Sen. Wiener: On behalf of the R Street Institute, I write in strong support of Senate Bill 421. Your bill represents an important first step to fix California's …

Democrats snub working poor, killing licensing reform

California Democrats prattle endlessly about helping the working poor, but their latest vote against a bill that would tangibly help financially struggling people shows that Democratic leaders are more …

The Grass Gets Greener: New data tells old story of public-employee greed

Yet another prominent study highlights the depth of California's and the nation's pension crisis. The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released a report on the "state pension funding gap" — i.e., …

Do new Bay Area tobacco bans promote health or erode harm reduction?

Restrictive new anti-tobacco ordinances are spreading across the San Francisco Bay Area like a cigarette-sparked wildfire. Northern California cities already have some of the toughest anti-smoking laws in …

Bullet train myopia driving local transit boondoggles

Over the past six years, California legislators and the governor have increased overall general-fund spending by $36 billion but couldn't find extra money to spend on road, freeway and other …

‘Damning’ audit showcases out-of-touch UC leaders

University of California students have to dig deeper to pay for tuition, thanks to a large increase approved by the Board of Regents this year. Taxpayers also are …

Napolitano deserves boot over latest UC scandal

The University of California warned Californians early this year that if tuition weren't significantly raised or public funding increased, education at the 10-campus system — with its staff …

Emergency water restrictions will extend beyond end of California drought

Former White House chief of staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s most quotable words are frequently cited as the apogee of cynicism, but they simply point to reality in …

Yes, science, but how about a March for Math?

Tens of thousands of people marched in hundreds of cities last weekend as part of something billed as the March for Science. The event, which coincided with Earth Day, …

Oregon might join the 21st century on ridesharing

Oregon has a reputation as young and hip, given the vibrant tech economy in cities like Portland, Eugene and Salem. But the Beaver State sometimes also shows a …

ARTIC’s fiscal tundra is preview of other boondoggles

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin once allegedly remarked in private that: "The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic," which is something …

Rewarding public employees with new tax hikes on the private sector

Under the “leadership” of Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats, the state government has increased its spending a dramatic $36 billion over the last six years, but never managed …

California high court sets stage for major pension ruling

The battle over reforming California's underfunded system of pension benefits does not involve any particular legislative proposal or initiative idea at this time, but is centered on a coming state …

State court punches union-backed ‘judge’ in the head

If you're wondering how far unions and California officials will go to kill any reform of the state's overburdened public-pension system, wonder no more: consider instead the final chapter in …

Carbon taxes are about climate issues, not budgets

A good test for whether politicians are serious about battling climate change, or merely using the problem as an excuse to advance a grab-bag of progressive issues, is …

San Clemente’s antics could make for a dark comedy

Between binge-watching some Coen Brothers’ dark comedies, I’ve been perusing videos of state legislative hearings and city council meetings. The acting’s not as good in the political proceedings, …

A last nail in the GOP’s California coffin

The California Republican Party has been vanquished at the state level, with Democrats having control of every constitutional office (governor, treasurer, secretary of state, etc.) and supermajorities in both houses …

Transparency initiative shaped nature of road-tax debate

It’s no secret that the state’s legislative leadership is less than thrilled about an open-government initiative that California voters passed in the November election, and are doing what …

Democratic attorneys general are the true masters of vote suppression

California Democrats have in recent years complained bitterly about alleged voter intimidation by Republicans and have even gone so far as to open a “voter intimidation hotline” before the Nov. …

Letter to Contra Costa supervisors on e-cigarettes

The R Street Institute recognizes the negative effects of smoking and supports policies that move smokers toward less harmful alternatives. We believe that Contra Costa’s proposed anti-tobacco ordinance …

California break-up idea won’t go away — for good reason

Years ago, I was riding an Amtrak train from Virginia to New Jersey and was chatting with a couple from California, who were stunned at how rapidly the …

California split back in the news again

The latest news about California—a breakup plan touted by the leaders of Brexit—could serve as a case study of how mischaracterizations spread across the internet, and how many …

How to fund infrastructure fixes: Tax hikes or rearranging spending priorities?

Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislators are pitching a transportation-tax proposal they depict as the only means to fix California’s crumbling roads, freeways and bridges. One would be …

Massive road tax really is a pension tax

Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislators have caused a stir with their plan to increase taxes to pay for the state's unquestionably decrepit infrastructure of roads and bridges. Instead of …

It’s OK, California. Breaking up isn’t hard to do.

Two leaders of the successful referendum to remove Britain from the European Union were recently in California, where they said favorable things about the newest version of a …

Housing crisis is latest excuse to take aim at Prop. 13

There’s little question that California’s rapidly rising home prices have become something of a crisis for low- and middle-income people. “California is rapidly becoming a renter majority state,” …

Public employees — ever more untouchable

One of the most obnoxious trends in the nation, and one that is particularly acute in California, is the continued push to enshrine public employees as a special, …

Costly veterans’ homes not serving broad population

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been a font of scandal in recent years, with various reports showcasing the way the agency charged with caring for our nation's veterans …

Novato’s tobacco ordinance is discriminatory

The City of Novato’s recently enacted anti-tobacco ordinance—which will go into effect in 2018, but is subject to reconsideration next week—would give landlords a tool with which to discriminate …

Estate-tax plan is another example of Trump-spite

Economists sometimes talk about a fictional $1 million tax on, say, beagles to illustrate the perverse effects of a poorly designed tax code. In theory, the tax could …

The ever-expanding reach of anti-tobacco zealots

San Francisco’s rent-control and tenant ordinances are so oppressive that thousands of apartment units sit vacant in a city where fierce housing demand has pushed rents for tiny apartments to …

Is California estate-tax proposal real or latest anti-Trump response?

This year’s California legislative session has been thus far dominated by two persistent themes: the desire to stand up to the Trump administration and the pursuit of new tax dollars …

ACLU gives needed rebuke to OC’s meetings policy

City governments, police departments and county boards of supervisors have an enduringly difficult time understanding the proper order of things. It’s clichéd, but true. We don’t work for …

The New Gender Battle: Tampons versus whiskey

It’s getting increasingly difficult to mock the California Legislature given the fusillade of nearly unbelievable legislation that makes its way through the Capitol’s hallowed halls. In the old days, when …

‘Gender injustice’ behind call to reduce taxes on tampons

In his veto message of a series of tax-reduction bills last September, Gov. Jerry Brown explained that “tax breaks are the same as new spending – they both cost the …

‘Pink slips’ evidence of a dysfunctional system

The news from the Santa Ana Unified School District board meeting should raise red flags for anyone with children in the district’s struggling school system. The board voted, …

California high court says public records are public, even on a private email

Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court unanimously overturned an appeals court decision that had provided a large loophole in the state’s public-records act. The case, City of San Jose …

Is Anaheim police fracas the result of ‘blue privilege’?

Everyone who watched the video of the recent fracas between an off-duty Los Angeles police officer and a group of teens in front of his Anaheim home should …

DMV truck-test backlog sparks bipartisan privatization bill

California state officials are worried about a shortage of certified truck drivers to meet the state’s growing transportation needs, yet a reported testing backlog at the California Department …

OC flap sheds light on academic bullying

The board of trustees at an Orange County, Calif., community college district put an end to a long-simmering local dispute by ending the suspension of a student who …

College officials need swift lesson in academic freedom

There’s something creepily totalitarian about Orange Coast College’s handling of the now nationally known incident involving 19-year-old Caleb O’Neil, who was suspended from the college for two semesters …

New identity for a master of identity politics

The most entertaining local news story this week was a puff piece in the Sacramento Bee about one of California’s most-powerful politicians, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de …

State watchdog agency points to flaws in bond oversight

The Oroville Dam’s near disaster has ignited a long-overdue debate about the condition of California’s infrastructure, and the need for additional investments in its creaky system of dams, levees, …

Utah roomshare bill stops local overreach

Local government officials like to argue that “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” The general concept is a good one, in that far-off officials in …

Pot shop reinstatement is a black eye for police

If you’re wondering why police officers sometimes lose the trust of the communities they serve, forget about the overheated rhetoric from Black Lives Matter and focus instead on …

At UC Berkeley, it pays well to worry about inequality

Former Clinton-era Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a public-policy professor at the University of California at Berkeley, has warned that “we are heading back to levels of inequality …

With old warnings unheeded, Oroville Dam problems threaten valley

  A Sacramento Bee story published Monday succinctly described the disaster unfolding at the nation’s tallest dam, where flaws in the Oroville Dam’s concrete spillway are forcing water onto …

Dues case spotlights unfairness of funding one’s foes

In an oft-quoted scene from “The Godfather,” Michael Corleone and family consigliere Tom Hagen discuss a planned hit on a competing mobster and dirty cop. Michael assures Tom, …

Trump spite leads to defense of idiocy

The leader of the California Senate recently used his closing remarks in a Senate hearing to downplay how concerning it is if illegal immigrants engage in identity theft, …

Is lack of competition leading to costly electricity glut?

A top California utility official once quipped that he was one of the few executives in the country who earned a profit merely by remodeling his office. He …

Latest DA scandal cries out for far-reaching reform

The government’s foremost responsibility is to administer a system of justice. Without a just system — due process for the accused, trustworthy trials, fair-minded judges, police and prosecutors …

Wackiness aside, unions still our biggest problem

When non-Californians think about what’s wrong with our lovely but dysfunctional state, they tend to think of some of the wackier stuff that routinely makes headlines here. The …

California high court gives insurance commissioner vast new powers

President Donald Trump’s spate of executive orders has jump-started a national debate about the wisdom of executive edicts, especially those that stray into the area of lawmaking. While …

Newport deal shows how pensions are rigged against taxpayers

  A former Newport Beach deputy police chief’s parting pension deal may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of his lifetime — and serves as …

Jerry Brown’s alternative state of the universe

By California’s low standards, Gov. Jerry Brown generally has been a voice of reason in the state Capitol, despite his occasionally unhinged rhetoric about the existential threat posed …

Short-term rentals: Are they compatible with residential communities?

Internet-based short-term rental companies such as Airbnb have built a burgeoning industry connecting homeowners with vacationers, who rent out rooms or entire houses for short-term stays. It’s a …

GOP tax plan could boost prices for Californians’ insurance

Donald Trump has only been president since Friday, so it’s too early to know what his “America first” policies will mean economically. But an ongoing debate from the …

What a relief: Rohrabacher can retreat to his ‘safe space’

Conservatives love to mock liberal college students who clamor for “safe spaces,” where they can hide from ideas that run contrary to their politically correct sensibilities. Yes, these …

Trump was right: There is no drought

Donald Trump might not have gotten all the details right when he declared in Fresno in May that California isn’t really suffering from drought, but his basic point …

New report: Cal high-speed rail faces 50 percent cost overruns

California’s ongoing “high-speed rail” project connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco continues to run up against the same, recurring problem since voters gave the plan initial bond funding …

Moorlach wants to take pension reform back to the future

There isn’t anything fundamentally significant about 1990, from an ecological standpoint. Nonetheless, California officials long ago set that year as the benchmark against which greenhouse-gas-emissions reductions are judged …

Stormy Weather: Brown’s budget holds infrastructure hostage

My neighbors and I just survived a week of flood dangers, as something called an “atmospheric river” led to massive rains throughout northern California. The warmth of the …

Scientists rebuke Coastal Commission over desalination

The Coastal Commission’s stated concern that a proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant’s intake pipes pose a threat to small and microscopic plankton has been rebutted in a letter …

O.C. legislator overstates law, but his column goes viral

California Republicans face a discouraging dilemma, as GOP numbers wither in the state Capitol. Democrats gained supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature, which leaves the remaining Republicans …

The Democrats’ successor to Hillary

Republicans preparing to deal with a potentially rebuilt Democratic Party in 2020 ought to take solace in at least one of the names bandied about as an up-and-coming …

California cities facing growing pension costs in new year

After two years of minuscule investment returns, the nation’s largest state pension fund – the California Public Employees’ Retirement System – has once again lowered its expected rates …

Big news from 2016 highlights rapidly changing county

My first encounter with an Orange County politician came in the mid-1990s, when I met then-U.S. Rep. Bob Dornan during his ill-fated 1996 presidential run. Dornan was speaking …

Will Trump call California’s bluff?

Believe it or not, but the incoming Trump administration is a godsend for California’s increasingly left-wing political leadership. Note how Democratic elected officials are tripping all over themselves, …

Raft of new state laws are going–or have gone–into effect

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed 898 bills into law last year. Most take effect Jan. 1, but others go into effect in coming years. The majority of new laws deal …

Desalination foes putting tiny critters above people

It’s getting increasingly difficult to exaggerate the degree to which some environmental activists and bureaucrats have placed the needs of California’s critters above the needs of its growing …

State Farm and the commissar

Critics of California’s business climate routinely complain about the state’s high tax rates, its large and costly government, its coddled and overpaid class of government workers and its …

CalPERS considers – then rejects – efforts to end tobacco divestment

As the nation's largest state-based pension fund, the California Public Employees' Retirement System is known for using its massive investment muscle to promote various social-investment causes. So-called ESGs …

Anaheim’s election means victory over crony capitalism

While political observers wait to see whether President-elect Donald Trump will fulfill his promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington, Anaheim’s new council majority is ready to do …

In California, an about-face on tobacco

The nation’s largest state-based pension fund, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), has long been known for using its investment muscle to push for “socially responsible” investments …

Court OKs constitutional challenge to new state law affecting farm industry

A federal appeals court last week took the highly unusual step of finding a U.S. constitutional cause of action in a challenge to a California state law – …

Santa Ana’s sanctuary policies are just symbolism

I took a photograph years ago of downtown Santa Ana for a magazine article I had written about the city. When I raised the camera to my eye, …

California Legislature’s gaseous impulses

The California Legislature last week received a load of bad publicity because of a new law that attempts to reduce the methane output of dairy cows dramatically — …

Republicans should snuff out deadly tobacco rules

Last month, Republican U.S. House leaders sent a pointed letter to federal agency heads warning them against finalizing “midnight regulations” — last-minute rules approved during a lame-duck session, …

New legislative session puts bail-bonds industry under microscope

At a press conference in the Capitol Monday morning, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom explained that, although he has long championed various reforms to the state’s criminal-justice system, …

Ruling casts doubt on fairness of OC ‘justice’ system

The California Court of Appeal’s 53-page ruling late last month in the ongoing jailhouse “snitch” scandal was the latest court rebuke of the local “justice” system. The blowback …

California GOP’s final death throes

The final vote tallies are in for a handful of tight legislative races. It’s now clear that California Democrats have gained supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature, …

Police-reform spotlight shines on the local level

The presidential campaign focused some attention on the long-simmering debate over policing and the appropriate uses of force, but as is typical with national campaigns, the nuances got …

Lou Correa’s opportunity in Washington

In the 1939 movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Jimmy Stewart portrays an idealistic man from a Western state who is appointed to fill a U.S. Senate seat. …

When lunatics run the asylum, you get Monty Python

California’s pension funds continue to face a fusillade of bad news, including new reports showing that retirement benefits consume 20 percent of Los Angeles’ general-fund budget. Put another …

Letter to Palm Springs mayor on short-term-rental law

I'd like to express concern about the restrictive short-term-rental ordinance the Palm Springs City Council will consider at its Nov. 30 meeting. I write as the Western region …

CalPERS staff nudges board to consider lower return rates

There’s bad news coming down the pike for California municipalities following several days of board meetings for the nation’s largest state-based pension fund. Although no action has been …

Charter ‘witch hunt’ does disservice to vulnerable kids

Most of us know the legend: German-born physicist Albert Einstein struggled with the regimented curriculum in his elementary school, yet later proved to be one of the world’s …

California the new redoubt of secessionism?

The most enjoyable part of the Trump victory has been watching people here in liberal northern California suddenly discover that some of the ideas libertarians and conservatives have …

Bail reform tops criminal-justice efforts in next legislative session

California has long been known as a law-and-order state, particularly following the crime spikes of the 1980s. The state passed the toughest “three strikes” law in the nation …

California voters defy trend – by voting as expected

Whereas the national election results shocked and surprised pollsters and many media observers, California’s results from Election Day conformed almost exactly to pre-election polls and predictions. Some of …

California misses another electoral wave

It’s hard to overstate the significance of Donald Trump’s improbable presidential victory Tuesday, yet the GOP tide barely fazed the nation’s most populous state. Democrat Hillary Clinton won …

‘Two Californias’ ruled by one distorted vision

Some pundits were aghast after a federal jury acquitted Ammon Bundy and several others for their roles in an armed standoff at a wildlife refuge in desolate eastern …

Ballot measures would legalize pot, end death penalty, create single-payer health care

While this year’s explosive presidential politics have drowned out battles at the state level, voters across the country nevertheless face a daunting number of weighty ballot questions on Nov. …

San Diego council chief trying to quickly push through Airbnb ‘ban’

A common spectacle takes place at the state Capitol at the end of every session. Legislative leaders who have been unsuccessful advancing their bills through the usual system …

It’s rational to be ignorant about plethora of initiatives

You’ve got to wonder whether voters, many of whom don’t know the names of their own legislators, should determine whether revenue bonds for major infrastructure projects should be …

Bureaucracy, funding no cure for homeless problem

My office is located in a part of downtown Sacramento that the Sacramento Bee recently referred to as a “blighted and foreboding stretch of K Street.” It’s not that the …

Election time in a one-party state

After George W. Bush was declared winner of the 2000 presidential election, I headed from our newspaper offices to the Orange County Republican Party election event, where I …

Competing death-penalty measures revive old feud

Thirty years ago, California voters did something unprecedented (and not seen since): They bounced Chief Justice Rose Bird from the state Supreme Court. Two other state high-court justices …

Insurers vow ‘muscular’ response to over-regulation

Insurers aren’t known for their aggressive pushback against overly meddlesome regulations. American insurance companies – like any massive industry – have a large lobbying presence. But they tend …

We Can Build Our Way Out of the Housing Crisis

In 1998, I left a small city in Ohio for Southern California, trading one of the nation's lowest-priced housing markets for one of its highest. The trade-off was …

California Moves Against ‘Public Threat’ Of E-Cigarettes With A Tax

Voters in California will decide on a contentious ballot initiative aimed at regulating the electronic cigarette industry and hiking tobacco taxes. Proposition 56 would raise the tax on tobacco …

California Aborting Free Speech Rights

In signing a bill that criminalizes the distribution of a “confidential” video of a “health-care provider,” Gov. Jerry Brown has at least dispensed with the notion that California’s …

State watchdog agency pushes for occupational licensing reform

One of the rare issues where politicians on the left and right increasingly agree involves occupational-licensing requirements – the oftentimes cumbersome government-approval processes that many workers must go …

We can build our way out of housing crisis

In 1998, I left a small city in Ohio for Southern California, trading one of the nation’s lowest-priced housing markets for one of its highest. The trade-off was …

Teams kneel at the altar of tax subsidies

The debate over standing for the national anthem is back on center stage this week, now that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been given the greenlight …

Union appeal focuses attention on pension precedent

A decision by four Marin County public-employee associations to appeal a pension-related case to the California Supreme Court could ultimately determine whether localities have the tools needed to rein …

Private eye’s guilty plea offers hope for accountability

At first glance, high-profile police controversies each generally present themselves as isolated events. Various police shootings have been in the news, and have sparked angry protests. The Associated …

At what point is California a lost cause?

A pseudonymous writer named Decius sparked a debate throughout the conservative media with his argument that this presidential election echoes “Flight 93” — the aircraft that crashed in …

Gov. Jerry Brown signs host of significant legislation

The 2016 legislative season is officially over, with Gov. Jerry Brown having signed 900 bills while vetoing 159 byFriday’s deadline. Some of the recently signed bills are far-reaching and will …

Ignoring pension past, state risks future problems

It’s one of the oldest ploys. After officials at a government agency or business are caught in an embarrassing situation, it’s typical for them to deny there’s anything …

California legalizes rental cars for ridesharing

Gov. Jerry Brown this week gave a small but significant boost to the ridesharing industry by signing A.B. 2763, which allows drivers for transportation network companies such as …

California’s moral superiority complex

I was drinking a beer recently in a bar in a small northern California town when a woman came in and demanded to know if any of the …

California’s roads improve, but still are troubled according to new study

Despite its well-documented inefficiencies and travails, California’s Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has managed to improve the state’s system of roads, bridges and freeways incrementally in recent years, according …

Pension mess can’t go on; that’s no reason to ignore it

President Richard Nixon’s economic adviser, the late Herbert Stein, still is known for his dictum: “If something cannot go on forever, it won’t.” It should be the rallying …

Suddenly, a shifting pension paradigm?

Last month, I wrote a dour column for the Spectator doubting that a significant new appeals court decision in a major pension case would ultimately change the financial …

Gov. Brown mulls bills overseeing psychotropic drugs for foster kids

California’s foster-care system has long been plagued with unaddressed problems, but a recent exposé about the system’s alleged over-prescription of psychotropic drugs has propelled the Legislature into action. Gov. …

Anaheim’s parks program raises surveillance debate

On Tuesday, Anaheim became the latest in a growing list of California cities to install police-monitored cameras in public places — in this case, three public parks. The …

They’ll never learn: Liberal policies boost poverty

I was perusing the real-estate listings for Palo Alto, California, and spotted a stylish, remodeled midcentury ranch house with a whopping 1,700 square feet on a postage-stamp lot …

Prop. 53 could have far-reaching consequences for state project financing – or not

Most California voters are unfamiliar with the inner workings of the municipal-bond process. Many are likewise unfamiliar with the differences between, say, “general obligation” bonds and “revenue” bonds. …

Coastal Commission abuse smacked down by OC court

During a 1997 speech to the American Planning Association in Monterey, Peter Douglas, the longtime executive director of the California Coastal Commission and main author of the 1972 …

Court smacks down California regulators over broker/agent ruling

An Orange County, California court has given the state’s Department of Insurance a stunning smack down in a long-running case about the “broker fees” charged by some insurance …

PC segregation still on the rise

It's the start of a new school year, so it’s time to hear bizarre stories from the nation’s universities — those politically correct hothouses where seemingly intelligent people …

Tobacco tax one of the most heated for November ballot

There’s broad agreement that the 17 initiatives on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot cover some of the most significant public-policy issues to come before voters in more than a decade. …

What if you were mistakenly placed on a ‘watch’ list?

In the 1985 dystopian science fiction movie, “Brazil,” the plot centers on the authorities’ apprehension of an innocent man named Archibald Buttle. He was mistaken for the outlaw, …

Jerry Brown dirties the climate

Gov. Jerry Brown received some media attention last week after he left an angry message on Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims’ voicemail. Angry that Mims had signed a …

Court ruling opens avenue for pension reform

An Aug. 17 California appeals court ruling rejected a public employee union’s claim that its members had a right to “pension spiking,” which the court described as “various …

Letter to CPUC on fingerprinting requirements

Dear California Public Utilities Commission, On behalf of the R Street Institute, I respectfully would like to offer comments on the commission’s consideration of a rule requiring fingerprinting as …

Great Park travails show the travesty of politics

One of the great fallacies of our modern world is the idea that development decisions should largely be made through politics and public input. That way all the …

Will appeals ruling sober up state’s pension abusers?

California’s hardy band of pension reformers show many of the symptoms of “battered spouse syndrome.” No matter how often they are beaten and ridiculed, they cling to hope. …

PROP 56: Tobacco initiative fails to make crucial distinctions

The attached policy short was co-authored by R Street State Programs Director Cameron Smith.  As the United States’ failed experiment with Prohibition was drawing to a close, two major groups fought …

Insurance rate rollback sets regulatory precedent

A spat between the California Department of Insurance and the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog over a recent news release left Sacramento insiders scrambling to understand the policy implications …

OC legislators help secure crucial ‘liberty’ reform

Last September, the state’s most powerful law-enforcement unions and lobbyists descended on the Capitol and derailed a sensible reform measure that had been sailing through the Legislature with …

Shock: Legislature does right thing on a liberty issue!

Our left-leaning Legislature isn’t exactly known for its commitment to protecting the constitutional liberties of the citizenry, which is an understatement of great magnitude. When I speak to …

Civil libertarians and police embrace asset-forfeiture compromise

The California Assembly on Monday approved one of the most significant civil-liberties reforms of the legislative session. Remarkably, the bill – to put limits on the controversial practice …

Federal oversight of snitch scandal is long overdue

The latest twist in the ongoing “snitch” scandal involving Orange County’s district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department further reinforces critics’ fears about problems in the nation’s criminal justice …

Letter to California Supreme Court on Hassell v. Bird

The attached letter was co-authored by R Street General Counsel Cameron Smith.  Re: Hassell v. Bird, 247 Cal. App. 4th 1336 (Court of Appeal Case No. A143233) Dear Hon. Justices, The …

Bay Area making life difficult for tech firms

In most of the country, a region’s “big” industry – think automotive companies in Michigan’s heyday, the oil business in Houston and entertainment in Los Angeles – is …

How far a ‘freedom’ city has strayed

The presidential race has become an all-consuming affair on social media, as Americans debate which candidate will do less harm to the republic and our freedoms. I remain …

Direct Democracy: California’s last hope?

One of the most far-reaching ideas advanced by 20th century progressives was the reemergence of direct democracy. And no state has taken the idea further than California. In 1911, …

California push for coal divestment raises concerns

Unlike the sellers of most other products or services, insurance companies receive payments from their customers in exchange for future promises. If you wreck your car, they will pay …

California coal-divestment push mostly about politics

California voters in 1988 dramatically expanded the power of the state Department of Insurance and turned the insurance commissioner post into an elected position. The Proposition 103 initiative …

Parks in Disarray: An allegory for California

Many of us who stay in California do so, in part, because of its beauty. As friends and neighbors plot moves to lower-tax, lower-regulation and higher-sanity places, such as …

Coal divestment and the California insurance industry

California voters in 1988 dramatically expanded the power of the state Department of Insurance and turned the insurance commissioner post into an elected position. It also gave the …

CalPERS’ earnings flop means belt tightening

Earlier this year, I watched in horror as my 401(k) earnings started a freefall right before I planned on shifting some assets into a lower-risk fund. Things corrected, …

Unions are root cause of policing problems

Even before the chilling murders of police officers in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Kansas City, most conservatives had been rallying around the “boys in blue,” defending law enforcement …

Police debates need more focus on policy, not emotion

The latest debate over policing understandably has become an emotional one, following the horrific murder of five police officers in Dallas and the deeply disturbing videos of police …

San Fran threatens Airbnb

It's ironic that San Francisco, the city so closely identified with the burgeoning sharing economy, would be defending an onerous law that undermines one of the tenets that …

Another revolting attack on our liberties

During a recent stroll around the west steps of the state Capitol, I eyed a group of “Yes California Independence Campaign” handing out the state flag. The flag …

Droning on about issues they don’t understand

One of the most frustrating things about America circa 2016 is there is virtually nothing any of us can do - start a business, invent a technology, remodel …

Crumbling roads? Let’s build bike lanes!

In his State of the State address earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown pointed to California’s deferred infrastructure maintenance as “staggering” and put the price tag for repairs at …

State officials addicted to nicotine taxes

The last time I wrote about tobacco-related measures, I concluded that California legislators and health advocates have let a bit of Puritanism get the better of them. Why …

Even booming Bay Area sees an exodus

When asked whether he wanted to have dinner at a particular restaurant, Yogi Berra famously quipped, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” It’s easy to apply that …

LA’s onerous rental rules threaten consumer privacy

The Los Angeles Planning Commission is considering onerous new regulations regarding short-term rentals. Here is a letter that R Street sent to the commission: I am the Sacramento-based Western …

Lavish pension hikes cause of O.C.’s exploding debt

The Orange County Grand Jury’s report on the state of the county’s pension plans painted a bleak but not unexpected snapshot of a challenging long-term fiscal situation. The …

Secrecy lobby runs amok at State Capitol

Last week, I reported on an ominous development in the California Capitol — an effort to criminalize a political point of view. Democratic leaders authored a bill that …

Lawmakers mobilize to thwart transparency initiative

Almost everyone has some idea for fixing whatever is wrong in Sacramento, ranging from new campaign spending limits to a requirement that legislators wear NASCAR-style sponsor logos. Such …

The end of the free speech consensus

What happens when the consensus for free speech evaporates and those with political power become willing to use any means necessary to silence people who hold unpopular views? …

Scandal dampens Sacramento’s world-class designs

I have a simple observation after years of writing about local-development issues: Whenever civic boosters talk about creating a “world-class city,” their city is by definition not one …

Top-two primary limits voters’ choices

If a California-style "top two" primary were in place for presidential races in 2008, the nation’s voters would have had to choose between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton …

More harassment of gun owners by Sacramento

The latest round of gun-control bills speeding through the Legislature should offer a reality check to those of us who own firearms: Democratic leaders will never be satisfied …

‘Ethics’ commissions about politics more than oversight

One of my proudest moments as a columnist came in 2008 when the Orange County Board of Supervisors launched the Office of Independent Review to monitor the Sheriff's …

One senator’s war on innovation

The California Legislature is well-known for its heavy-handed approach to business. The state recently scored dead last in Chief Executive magazine’s survey of CEOs, which isn’t even newsworthy, …

This crowd believes it can run your life

There’s only one time I recall California officials significantly reducing regulations on anything. That was in 2012, when legislators voted to let physician assistants, midwives, nurses and plumbers …

California’s vaping law puts puritanism above health

I like to quote H.L. Mencken’s definition of Puritanism: “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” It often applies in the Capitol, with one of the …

A bill Trump the developer would love

I love when the powerless get fed up with a corrupt establishment, defy political correctness and fight back. It’s why I’ve admired Vera Coking, the feisty widow from …

Cal Fire’s corruption of public service

When it comes to firefighters, most Americans are satisfied thinking of them as “heroes” who run into burning buildings and battle forest fires — and leaving it at …

Funding ideology, not research, at university labor institutes

One of the ongoing stains on the integrity of the University of California system is its publicly funded labor institutes. They are union-controlled “think tanks” that are about …

Is Jerry Brown California’s savior?

It may be news to many of us living here, but California — according to a recent Newsweek issue — apparently no longer faces intractable budgetary, debt, infrastructure, business, …

Oregon town ponders onerous short-term rental rule

The Hood River, Oregon, City Council has delayed its decision until May 9 on an ordinance that would restrict short-term rentals to a family’s primary residence and ban …

Build a way out of high housing prices

If there were 30 loaves of bread and 50 people who wanted them, you can guess what would happen. Prices for those loaves would rise, from, maybe, $2, …

California’s Soviet-like kangaroo ‘courtroom’

It’s hard to spend time on Facebook without finding examples of “Godwin’s Law”: The longer an online discussion goes on, the higher the likelihood someone will use a …

Sonoma should step back from punitive tobacco law

A version of this post also appeared as a letter to the editor in the April 19, 2016 edition of the Press Democrat newspaper.  The Sonoma County Board of …

Punitive tobacco law

Sonoma County supervisors still can step back from their overly punitive anti-tobacco ordinance as it comes before the board for a second reading today. This ordinance is designed primarily …

California’s pension hubris

Instead of addressing the estimated $600 billion in unfunded liabilities in California’s beleaguered public-employee pension system, Democrats in Sacramento have instead decided to “solve” a growing pension crisis …

Some in GOP yield to Sacramento’s secrecy lobby

In one of my favorite “Far Side” comic strips, the first panel offers what people typically say to dogs: “OK Ginger I’ve had it. You stay out of …

Orange County’s political divide has officials seeing red

The real division in the Golden State isn’t between Northern California and Southern California; it is between the coastal cities and the grittier inland. That’s true even at …

Dumping water in the middle of a drought recovery

What would happen if the communists took over the Sahara Desert?” William F. Buckley asked during a discussion in 1972. “Nothing for 50 years. Then there will be a shortage …

Better ways to handle unwanted animals

The last time I was in an animal shelter, I adopted a furry 8-year-old puss named Gus. The shelter was clean but depressing: It was filled with whelping …

No adults left in the State Capitol

After his first incarnation as California governor in the 1970s and ’80s, Jerry Brown spent a few years in the 1990s as a radio talk-show host. His Oakland-based …

A defender of property rights now a foe of short-term rentals

I first got to know Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait in the early 2000s, when we were battling a perverse city ordinance that forced low-income people – typically, folks …

Lawsuits, legislation threaten the ‘sharing’ economy

As an occasional cab rider in Sacramento, I've noticed something that isn't always a given: fleets of newer cabs, polite drivers and the use of modern credit card …

A few crumbs for private workers

California’s Democratic leaders announced a “landmark deal” Monday to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. Yet it may be overshadowed by another milestone from …

Lawsuits, legislation threaten ‘sharing’ economy

As an occasional cab rider in Sacramento, I’ve noticed something that isn’t always a given: fleets of newer cabs, polite drivers and the use of modern credit card …

Legislators belatedly discover supply and demand

A former colleague who recently moved from California to Texas regularly posts photographs on Facebook showing what $300,000 buys over there, compared to here. One could buy a …

Anti-party law turns innocent kids into criminals

Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker got into GOP politics because of his “belief in individual liberty, limited government and a free market,” according to the party’s …

How regulators quietly drive up costs

California political observers are understandably fixated on the goings-on in the state legislature, which is the living embodiment of what New York Judge Gideon Tucker wrote in an 1866 …

California already is building a wall — of debt

During a speech Monday to union organizers at a Sacramento dinner, California Gov. Jerry Brown made one of his characteristic off-the-cuff jokes. “If (Donald) Trump were ever elected, …

State quietly pushes cost-raising insurance regulations

California political observers are understandably fixated on the goings-on in the state Legislature, which is the living embodiment of what New York Judge Gideon Tucker wrote in an …

California anti-nicotine package vaporizes common sense

The California Legislature this past week approved a far-reaching package of anti-nicotine bills. Republicans objected, but Democrats insisted the state – despite having some of the lowest smoking …

Desperate rail gambit

San Francisco’s colorful former mayor Willie Brown caused a stir three years ago by writing some disturbing truths about major government infrastructure projects. The city’s Transbay Terminal project—billed …

California proposal to let Uber drivers, other sharing economy workers, unionize

California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez's latest high-profile legislative effort has been billed as a fairly modest measure to provide a "safety net" for workers in the growing sharing economy. "All …

As another company moves away

After the 2013 death of the founder of Carl’s Jr. — the ubiquitous California fast-food restaurant chain — the Orange County Register published an obituary that captured the …

‘Protecting’ consumers by forcing them to pay more

A Depression-era trade law – now the subject of debate in the West Virginia Legislature – is a reminder of how “consumer protection” laws often do little to …

Democrats under the influence

In late August 2014, five California legislators were photographed having a fun-seeming time on the balcony outside of the legislative chambers. At the center of the scene was …

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