Supermajority in Sacramento portends bad bills

Humorist Will Rogers quite appropriately warned the country nearly a century ago about the dangers of Congress meeting the next morning. He encouraged all Americans to pray: “Oh Lord, give us strength to bear that which is about to be inflicted upon us. Be merciful with them, oh Lord, for they know not what they’re doing.”

Californians should repeat that prayer today, for the state Legislature will soon reconvene and inflict upon us the next phase of its Blue State legislative agenda.

Not all items will be new. Some are reruns of previous attempts to dictate daily life. For instance, Assemblyman Phil Ting again hopes to outlaw gasoline-powered vehicles, this time through Assembly Bill 40, which “requires the California Air Resources Board to develop a comprehensive state strategy to achieve complete electrification of the transportation sector in 22 years, by year 2040.”

The San Francisco Democrat’s earlier efforts to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles were too extreme even for his party comrades, and never became law. So “this year,” he said, “we’re taking a step back.”

Not back far enough. It’s still a gross infringement on free choice. Worse, our freedom to choose will be limited by government without reason. Eliminating internal-combustion engines from the “transportation sector” will have zero effect on the climate. California produces a thin slice of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, only about 1 percent.

The Legislature will also consider limiting choice through Assembly Bill 5. Should it become law, workers who prefer the freedom of setting their own hours and working as independent contractors, and businesses that use freelancers, will have to wade through a thicket of rules before they can reach an agreement approved by the state.

First, workers must be “free from the control and direction” of the company that contracted their services while at work. Second, freelancers must perform work “outside the usual course” of the business that hired them. Third, contract workers will be required to have “an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.”

The legislation essentially codifies the “ABC test” adopted earlier this year by the California Supreme Court.

Bill sponsor Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, claims her legislation “expands employee protections” in a “rigged economy.” That’s a fantasy. Instead, it will hurt many of the roughly 2 million Californians who work in the “gig economy.” The R Street Institute estimates that “66,905 to 334,526 independent contractors (will be) reclassified as full-time workers,” which “will cost Golden State businesses anywhere from an additional $1,300,944,000 to $6,504,720,371 in payroll expenses annually.”

Startups that rely on contract workers will be crippled by the legislation. Established companies, small, large, and in between, whose business models heavily depend on freelancers will lose ground. Then there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of gig employees who could find they have no job at all under such a regime.

Of course, these bills are just the beginning of woes. Other troubling legislation coming our way in 2019 includes:

  • AB 123, which “requires the superintendent of public instruction to administer child care and development programs that offer a full range of services to eligible children from infancy to 13 years of age.” The San Francisco Chronicle reports the bill would “make an additional 100,000 children ages 3 and 4 eligible for free preschool” while costing taxpayers “about $1.3 billion over three years.” And what will those billions buy in terms of student achievement? Probably nothing. Universal preschool programs in other states have failed to bring promised improvement.
  • Assembly Bill 4, an expansion of “the full scope of Medi-Cal benefits” to illegal immigrants age 19 and older. The Assembly Appropriations Committee says the legislation would cost $3 billion per year, a not-insignificant sum.
  • AB 44, an attempt to outlaw both the manufacture and sales of new fur products in the state. What’s next? Meat bans? Or will there first be a prohibition on hunting in the interim?

Rogers, who lived in California before it went Deep Blue, is also remembered for celebrating news that “Congress is deadlocked and can’t act.” It was, he said, “the greatest blessing that could befall this country.” Too bad that won’t happen in California. It’s a one-party state where that party always gets its way.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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