Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Miscellany: Some Good (and Bad) Things Happening in California

Glancing through the headlines these past couple of days, we noticed a few miscellaneous nuggets of good news for libertarians in California. As you'd probably expect, we also noticed some bad news. Rather than asking you to scroll through a half-dozen or so interminable posts, we thought we'd discuss all of them at once. So, without further ado, the good and the bad this week.

I giveth, and I taketh away.

Good: A ban on non-essential travel by state employees. After the executive order Gov. Brown issued yesterday, all in-state travel not "directly related to enforcement responsibilities, audits, revenue collection or other duties required by statute, contract or executive directive" will require approval from agency heads or department directors; similar travel outside California requires the approval of Brown's office. It's not going to swing California back into solvency, but it's nice to see the Governor ending a government perk that's clearly open to abuse.

Bad: State Commissioners will get to keep six-figure salaries. Ah, where Sacramento giveth, Sacramento taketh away. Yesterday, the state Senate killed a bill that would have replaced the highest commissioner salaries with a $100 daily payment. The state commissions in California are little more than a way to give termed-out legislators six-figure salaries for doing almost no work. For example, the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board met just 14 times in 2010. How much did its six members make for those 14 days of work? $128,000 apiece. We don't normally praise California Republicans on this site, but we'll tip our cap to Sen. Tony Strickland of Moorpark, who fought for this bill. He was voted down by the Democrats on the Senate's Governmental Organization Committee. Which is something to keep in mind the next time these same Democrats tell you the state can't possibly cut any more spending without triggering Armageddon.

Good: The soda tax is dead. Nanny-state haters, lift up a glass of Dr. Pepper and celebrate. AB 669, which would have taxed sodas, sports drinks, and other tasty beverages, has apparently died in committee.

Bad: The California Air Resources Board is alive. Assembly Bill 1332, which would have abolished the Air Resources Board and at least one instrument of environmental regulation in California, died in committee on Monday.

Good: Economic regulation may soon have to clear a new hurdle. Not dying in committee this week was SB 688. Under this bill, state agencies would have to conduct economic evaluations of proposed regulations, and those with an impact exceeding $10 million would be subject to review by the Legislature. While lawmakers couldn't overturn these rules, they could delay their implementation for at least a year. The bill still has a way to go before becoming law, but it could prevent unelected bureaucrats from having the authority to arbitrarily write rules that ruin private industry.


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