Category Archives: California Legislature

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding?

This BitesIn surveying the myriad assaults on freedom of speech and thought, there appears to be a unifying culprit: Groupthink. Borrowing from George Orwell’s 1984, the principle is simply that enormous pressure within a particular group or political party stifles independent thinking or alternative viewpoints.

One of the most honorable aspects of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is that the organization will defend the right for individuals and groups to speak their minds — regardless of how abhorrent they may be (i.e., the KKK).  This basic freedom is under assault from all quarters.

The left and right and media continue their march to the extreme fringes of discourse. They are all complicit in this disgusting trend, which feeds off controversy, fear, emotion, hyperbole, the demise of civility and power of social media. The results are as shameful as they are sickening:

  • In the nation’s capital, Sen. Elizabeth Warren if yanked off the floor for reading a statement by widow of Martin Luther King.
  • Last week in Sacramento, the Democrats did the same thing by removing Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) as she sought to deliver a speech criticizing the late Tom Hayden for his anti-war activities.
  • Panel discussions on both CNN and Fox News are nothing but forums for bias and shouting under the guise of journalism.
  • President Trump bans news outlets from news briefings in retaliation for unfavorable coverage.
  • Universities – including UC Berkeley (birthplace of the free speech movement) cancel speeches from controversial figures.
  • Protestors disrupt town halls with no intention of finding common ground.

What is happening, America?

We have become a state and nation of thin-skinned people who already have their minds made up in lockstep with their peer groups and according to their respective Groupthink labels. In this type of environment, anyone holding a different view is public enemy number one and a target for attack.

This is especially damaging to moderates, who often find themselves in a no-man’s-land that seeks to balance and find   valid elements of opposing views in an effort to reach consensus or compromise. One would think this approach would prevail because most people want solutions. Yet extreme Groupthink drowns it all out. This reality only confirms the adage that the only things in lying in the middle of the road are dead.peace-love

Enough with the labeling. Enough with the intolerance. Enough with hate.

About the only silver bullet the Blue Dog can come up with is to change our national anthem to Nick Lowe’s “(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” as performed by Elvis Costello.

Since this song was written by a Brit, maybe everyone can agree to this. Go ahead and laugh. Got any better ideas?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under California Legislature, Congress, Donald Trump, Freedom of Speech, Journalism, Media, Politics

Governor Should Sign Breathalyzer Bill

 

Untitled

Human willpower is no match for the disease of alcoholism. For many, the urge to drink obliterates any recognition for public safety. This has been proven time and time again. And deaths from drunken drivers is a scourge that results in countless loss of lives that could and should be prevented.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Senate Bill 1046 (Hill) would mean that “starting in 2019, first-time DUI offenders would be required to install an ignition interlock device for six months to reinstate their full driving privileges. The penalty goes up from there: a year for a second offense, two years for a third offense, and three years for a fourth or subsequent offense.”

dog_withboneMaybe there is some controversy under the surface of this, but the BlueDog isn’t seeing it. SB 1046 makes perfect sense.

More importantly, what this bill should really do is spark a debate about the legalization of recreational marijuana and how that will likely result in a spike in the very crimes — driving while impaired — that SB 1046 is trying to prevent. It makes little sense to mitigate one terrible addiction while promoting a positive climate that allows similar addictions and fatal accidents to thrive.

Leave a comment

Filed under California Legislature

Rise of the Mod Squad

dog_withbonePity the state’s coastal liberals, who thanks to the growing force of moderate Democrats were reminded that they don’t have a blank check in Sacramento any more.

In the waning days of the legislative session, The Mod Squad flexed its common-sense muscles on a number of measures, most notably blocking attempts to cut gas consumption in half by 2030. While perhaps a noble concept, the reality is that Assembly Bill 350 represented government overreach with the likely potential to harm the economy and low-income Californians, especially in the the Central Valley and inland communities.

It is disingenuous to attack these moderate representatives for not toeing the line in support of too-far-to-the-left  proposals, including AB 350, which would have spiked California’s gas prices, already among the highest in the nation. Accusations that these Mods were bought off by the oil industry ring hollow and are an insult to lawmakers and the constituents they represent.

After all, the rise of the Mods is exactly what the voters called for in 2010 by supporting an open primary system, which passed in the hopes it would lead to greater responsiveness to the public,  an end to rigid partisanship and more free-thinking leadership focused on solving problems, not creating more of them.

Like it or not, that is exactly what we have recently witnessed. Moderate Democrats, they should be applauded for standing up to knee-jerk notions that may sound good, but in reality are just bad public policies being promoted by California’s elite.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under California Legislature, Environment

CA Bureaucrats Are Playing God

dog_snarlingWhile Governor Brown roamed the Vatican praying for rain recently, we hope he also asked the big guy upstairs to do him a huge favor:  to remind California bureaucrats that there is a God, but He  just isn’t them . . .  no matter how much they seek to arbitrarily lord over the masses.

There is an incredibly disturbing pattern emerging within the Brown Administration that is going largely unnoticed by the public, unreported by press corps and perhaps even flying under Governor Brown’s own radar. Rogue boards and commissions that are pushing personal agendas and openly defying the will of judges, the state Attorney General, the courts, the Legislature and even Governor himself.

We’re talking about unelected bureaucrats exhibiting the brass-balled temerity to pull rank on (and the rug out from under) the very people voters have elected to represent their interests and protect them.

Bureaucracy running wild promises to be a rich vein for the BlueDog to tap for months to come. But for now, let’s just point out a couple current examples:

Exhibit A – The State Water Resources Control Board Above the Law?

As the result of lawsuits filed by local water and irrigation districts with longstanding water rights, numerous judges and the state attorney’s office told the SWRCB that it cannot curtail water allocations to water districts without citing proper cause and providing those districts with the opportunity to present their positions.

But instead of obeying  these court rulings, the SWRCB has gone ahead and proposed fines to some of the districts that sued the board. In one case, as much as $1.5 million. Those fines were been issued in direct defiance of the court’s requirements. Such actions are as arrogant and retaliatory as they are punitive.

Exhibit B – Brewing Scandal at the California Fish & Game Commission?

Bear, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats and other predators increasingly are surfacing in California urban areas due to sprawl and drought conditions. These wild animals are ransacking homes, killing pets and attacking children like something out of Little Red Riding Hood. Such episodes highlight the need for responsible predator management polices that protect both animal populations and the public at large.

Historically, responsible hunting and trapping programs have served as a critical tool for keeping wildlife at bay and managing wildlife populations.

In the next few days, the California Fish & Game Commission will be considering proposals that will essentially eliminate bobcat trapping statewide and set a dangerous precedent for effective predator management in the Golden State.

Bobcat Photo

 

 

 

 

These proposals are moving forward in open defiance of the California Legislature and Governor Brown, both of whom supported Assembly Bill 1213, legislation requesting regulations to tightly limit bobcat trapping — but with the clear condition that such policy be made only after comprehensive bobcat population study and thoughtful review of the scientific facts.

The governor should be commended for underscoring this notion when he signed the bill into law. And he should pay attention to what Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) recently told the Sacramento Bee on this issue:

“It’s real simple: There was a bill before the Legislature to ban the bobcat trapping that didn’t pass. You don’t need much more clarity than that to know what the Legislature was OK with. For a regulatory body to go out and basically go against the role of the Legislature is inappropriate . . . One of the real detriments of term limits has been that one branch of government has far exceeded its jurisdiction. The Legislature has so much constant turnover that no one’s there to hold folks accountable.”

We all know what happens when power goes unmonitored and unchecked.

The Department of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) and AB 1213 author (Bloom) have dropped the ball on funding research since the bill passed in 2013. They need to step up to the plate to make sure the necessary data is gathered before promoting regulations.

But rather than obey the Legislature and Governor, the commissioners are being presented a false choice that exploits a narrowly constructed law. It would be a sad commentary on the democratic process if the commission ignored the will of the Governor and Legislature.

One hopes that cooler heads on the commission will prevail, especially since the Governor, to his credit, recently replaced two commissioners whose terms had expired. The new members can play an important role by applying the brakes to this process so that a thoughtful and responsible set of regulations can be developed. There is no urgency on this matter.

Otherwise, the actions and attitude exhibited by both the Fish & Game Commission — and those of the SWRCB — will remain jaw-dropping in their hubris. We’ve already seen how dangerous this can be (CPUC, CalFire, etc.)

Where is the outrage? Where is the accountability? Where is the oversight? Where is the hammer?

Governor Brown is a measured and thoughtful leader. It is hugely disrespectful to him for his  Administration to operate unchecked and contrary to his policies. The Governor needs to focus on reigning them in and demand his bureaucrats stop playing God . . . or heaven help us.

Leave a comment

Filed under California Drought, California Legislature, Environment, Media, Water

CalTrans Mocks Water Conservation

This BitesThis just in from the California Department of Hypocrisy:

“CalTrans landscaping project would use more water daily than one family uses in a year.”

According to this Riverside Press Enterprise storyCaltrans intends to plant more than 1 million square feet of freeway landscaping through Riverside that will be irrigated with overhead sprinklers, despite a drought-driven state crackdown on water use.

Yes. You read correctly. And, yes, your jaw should be hitting the floor about now.

In stark contrast: As the BlueDog writes this, he is sitting in the Central Valley backyard of his 82-year-old parents,  conscientious model citizens who are earnestly doing what the Governor has told them: conserve water.  They have let their gorgeous lawn turn as brown as a hay. They save their shower and kitchen water in buckets to water plants. They have cobbled together foam panels to float on their pool to save hundreds of gallons of water from summer evaporation.

They are doing what our government is imploring every Californian to do.

So what’s with CalTrans? Why is it above our water conservation edict? If you read the story, they parse and nuance better than former President Bill Clinton before the Monica Lewinsky grand jury. But no amount of twisted rationale can justify the CalTrans landscaping project if we are to believe everyone is supposed to be making sacrifices to conserve water.

Governor Brown and the legislature should be hammering CalTrans like Thor for this tone-deaf plan. Otherwise it sends the wrong signal to the populace. Pure and simple. If California government can’t take the drought seriously, why should we?

1 Comment

Filed under California Drought, California Legislature, Water

A Booster Shot for Common Sense

dog_withboneChalk one up for sound science and common sense.

In state that too often makes policies, laws and regulations based on spasms of emotion, half-baked medical studies, distorted reality and political pressure, the approval of of Senate Bill 277, Sen. Richard Pan’s bill to require vaccines for schoolchildren, represents a major victory.

Major kudos to Governor Brown, who signed the bill into law yesterday, and to all those who voted for the measure in both houses.

For moderates, the significance of SB 277 is even bigger than the actual policy contained within the new law. It is a triumph over the hue and cry of a sincere, vocal minority of people holding passionate but extreme, irrational views. That includes moronic, mush-headed buffoons like Jim Carrey, who today called the Governor a “fascist.”

Right. We all want Jim Carrey dictating public health policy in California.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Whether it’s pesticides, ingredients used in consumer products or how water is best allocated, highly organized fringe groups will continue to push for policies based on the assumption of problems lacking credible science or data to support their positions. Just because these groups are loud, aggressive and committed does not make them right.

The nascent effort to eventually overturn SB 277 via a referendum will go down in flames, further making this point. So bring it on.

The success of  SB 277 suggests that maybe, just maybe, the lunatics really aren’t running the asylum after all. That common sense and science, not white-hot rhetoric, can in fact rule the day.

Here’s to hoping the Governor, California Legislature and the state’s quiet voters can keep it that way.

 

Leave a comment

July 1, 2015 · 7:03 PM

Achtung: A Consensus Crisis

dog_snarlingAs gridlock once again descends on Capitol Hill in the form of a government shutdown, a recent Washington Post piece by E.J. Dionne, Jr. provides a thoughtful perspective on how the United States is falling behind in much more than education and the global economy. Our history as a government of and by the people is also at stake. We are no longer leaders in the art of compromise and consensus building.

Germany, our post-WWII progeny, has something to teach us on that front.

“The Germans don’t buy the zero-sum thinking that government and markets — or liberty and equality — can’t be pursued jointly,”  Jackson Janes, president of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies told Dionne. “They argue about the same issues we face — how much social, how much market and how much government do we want? — but their starting point is that all three should be working together: capitalism with a strong welfare dimension steered by a government which is an ally, not the enemy.”

Berlin Wall

California leads the nation in many ways – some good, some bad. Our state’s recent history suggests that Washington is following Sacramento’s inability to develop consensus in legislation, regulation and public policy issues.  The extremists on both ends of the spectrum too often hold the state, and now the nation, hostage. Ironically, when government shuts down, our elected officials still collect their paychecks and are frequently immune from the impacts of the laws and red tape they impose.

California and the U.S. have built their own version of the Berlin Wall with ideology, not concrete. Instead of dividing people, they are severing the ability to hammer out bipartisan agreements that constructively benefit the citizenry. A mantra of this blog is bipartisanship. But that appears to simply be vapor, a naive dream.

Sometimes I think what we need, if not a forceful third party of moderates from both sides of the aisle, is a parliamentary system. Multiple parties would force coalitions. And gridlock could be broken up at anytime by calling for a vote of confidence at any time irrespective of the eternal election cycle.

When it comes to learning from Germany, Dionne sums it up nicely:

“Germans applied to their own best traditions some useful pointers about reaching workable compromises in a democracy fromus — from the America of FDR, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. Why do Germans remember ideas from our history that the shutdowners dearly want us to forget?”

Leave a comment

Filed under California Legislature, Media, partisanship

Panetta: Partisanship A Major Threat to National Security

Bone

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci had a nice profile recently on Leon Panetta, a native Californian and statesman par excellence.

I’ve always thought of Panetta, who recently retired from a long and distinguished career, as someone who always viewed his responsibilities the way all elected officials should: as public servants. From congressman and White House chief of staff to director of the OMB or CIA, here is a man who has always seemed to act and speak with a profound respect for our nation and its democratic institutions. Pragmatism over ideology. Policy over politics. Respect over vitriol. Duty over personal aggrandizement.

What really jumped off the page of Marinucci’s piece was Panetta’s concern over extreme partisanship and how it poses one our country’s most serious threats to national security. This, remember, is coming from a guy who was in charge of the CIA and Department of Defense. He knows a little bit about what the United States is up against. When he says one of our greatest dangers is ourselves, that bears attention.

Leon Panetta

 If you wonder why we need more people like Panetta in government, check out this passage from the Chronicle piece:

“The avuncular Panetta gets deadly serious when he talks about what he believes is one of the greatest dangers to America’s future – political partisanship that, he said, has never been more divisive or discouraging.

Washington “has really become dysfunctional,” said Panetta, who began his political career as a Republican, “and when that happens, in many ways that becomes a greater national security threat than almost anything else.”

“I’m sensing that – for whatever reason – we’re in a testing period now as to whether some of this can change,” he said. “Unfortunately, I think this is a time when change is going to happen – not from the top down – but from the bottom up.”

His mission now, Panetta said, is “to get young people who are not trapped by partisanship to recognize that things can be different – if they’re willing to take the risk involved with getting elected to public office.”

He’s encouraged, he said, because the new crop of students who hope to become public servants is less attached to “strong ideological edge” of their parents’ generation.

“They’re much more pragmatic; they’re much more willing to see if problems can be solved,” he said. “I don’t see them as being tied to the kind of party label as you see playing out in Washington – and in Sacramento for that matter.”

Let’s hope Panetta is as successful with this mission as he was throughout his career. We need more leaders like him.

1 Comment

Filed under California Legislature, Congress, Journalism, Media, national security, partisanship, Politics

State Republicans Dead Wrong on Budget

For as pro-business and anti-tax as this Blue Dog is, California’s Republican state legislators are way off base by rejecting Governor Brown’s call for putting a tax extension vote before the electorate. It is a pathetic, albeit classic, case of extreme ideology getting in the way of problem solving, sacrifice and compromise.

Extending taxes should really be a no-brainer that the Legislature and Governor should man-up for and even pass on their own without seeking the political cover of the ballot.

First, this is an extension. The taxes are already in existence. Our politicians are fond of putting things in terms of kitchen-table talk, so look at it this way: If a household is in dire financial straits, it cuts expenses and seeks to preserve existing income. Christmas money from relatives? Check. Bonus from work? Check. Rental deposit? Check. Refunds from car insurance or other sources? Check.  You get the idea.

Second, Brown is exhibiting dogged determination in making harsh cuts. We all know there is a ton of government waste and programs on the bubble that should be cut. But he also appears to be going all the way to the bone in a way that will shock liberal Dems. The Republicans need to bring more than the word “NO” to the table.

Third, perhaps worse than taxes, most moderates and independents despise spinelessness. But this dearth of leadership and lack of problem-solving is precisely what we are seeing and hearing from the California GOP.

To wit: “This is really not our problem,” Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale, said Tuesday after meeting with Brown.

And this, in the Los Angeles Times from Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) the highest-ranking Republican budget leaders: “Listen, the drill is, we come up with a budget, it gets vilified by everybody and at the end of the day we don’t have the ability to pass it. It’s a majority-vote budget. We’re not the majority. We respect that. We’ll be part of the process but it’s not like we’re going to lead with all the things where we become the bad guys. The majority has the ability, they have the authority. God bless them, we’re here to help.”

Whining, hand-wringing and lobbing grenades is no way to attract people to your cause. The Republican position here is pure Stone Age. It’s embarrassing and exactly the type of unreasonable position that has marginalized the Republican party in California. Also it is why conservative and moderate Dems cannot bring themselves to embrace the party.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate taxes as much as the next guy and would not support new taxes. But the $9 billion or so already on the table needs to stay on the table until we get out of this mess. Republicans should hold their noses and see the common sense in this.

Leave a comment

Filed under California Legislature, Politics

Where is Governor Moonbeam?

Happy New Year, Californians.

While it is easy to remain cynical about the fate of the Golden State, Governor Jerry Brown’s first week on the job, as well as his run-up to taking office, has indeed been heartening. In terms of both symbolism and substance, one cannot help but be impressed by his sober, workmanlike approach to his job.

Whether a holding a low-key hotdog inaugural, making it a priority to open the lines of communication with Republicans or making the effort to meet key stakeholder groups in their own offices — Brown is drawing raves from both sides of the aisle.

Obviously, style must soon give way to substance. On the eve of his budget unveiling tomorrow, Brown appears dialed-into our crisis in a way we have not seen for the past eight years. Sure, closed door meetings discussions with Brown have been described as like watching a Super Ball bouncing all over the room. Yet, there is little, if any, public evidence of the old and quirky Governor Moonbeam. Instead, we are seeing a sure hand and steady grip at the helm of the Titanic.

By making it clear no-one is immune from deep, ugly cuts; that voters should approve tax extensions; and that the state must push more responsibility to local government, he is asserting a pragmatic no-nonsense, non-partisan approach that offers a glimmer of hope for our dire situation. It has not gone unnoticed that many believe the large contingent of  liberal Democrats is going to be Brown’s biggest nemesis.

The business community is on pins and needles waiting for all Brown’s appointments to be made. Already there are rumblings and concerns being voiced around Sacramento his appointments thus far are too partisan. But none of that matters if Brown continues to set the right tone and stays true to less government and living within the state’s means. By definition, that should curtail government’s insatiable appetite to regulate and stifle business.

If Brown stays tough, smart and fair, California might just have a chance.

Leave a comment

Filed under California Legislature