Good morning, California.
“While the seriousness of the crime can never be minimized, I believe that Mr. In should be permitted to have the chance at remaining in a community to which he has devoted a life of service.”—Gov. Jerry Brown, pardoning Vanna In and thus helping him avoid deportation to Cambodia.
In entered the U.S. at age three, served six years for the murder of a fellow gang member at 17, was released in 2001, and started Jobs of Hope to help former gang members in Fresno.
No relief for soaring fire insurance rates
Coffey Park, 2017.
Rewriting the rules for California’s new wildfire normal is easier said than done.
CALmatters’ Antoinette Siu writes that soaring claims are driving up premiums in the Sierra foothills and other fire-prone areas.
Armand Feliciano of Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, which represents 1,000 insurance companies: “If you live in a very dry area, it’s going to be very tough to spread that risk.”
Outgoing Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones proposed consumer-related bills to make it harder for insurers to raise rates or cancel coverage in high-risk fire zones.
Jones: “Most of those bills were hijacked by the insurance industry one way or another, substantially and hostilely amended.”
What’s next: Fire insurance should be at the top of the agenda in the campaign to replace Jones between Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Bell Gardens Democrat, and Steve Poizner, a former Insurance Commissioner running as a no-party-preference candidate. The winner will have to confront the issue.
Fire liability law overhaul is dead. What's next
Santa Rosa, 2017.
Lawmakers are abandoning efforts to relieve utilities of some costs when their equipment sparks future fires. But don’t expect utilities to be left out in the cold.
Remind me: Gov. Jerry Brown proposed altering liability law to limit utilities’ costs in future fires. Pacific Gas & Electric chief Geisha Williams complicated what was a tough sell by calling the governor’s proposal “insufficient.”
That statement aside, PG&E, aided by Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, municipal utilities and the electrical workers’ union, lobbied for the change and funded a multi-million dollar ad campaign.
Little good it did.
Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat who co-chairs the committee considering the issue, told the San Francisco Chronicle: “It was a tough fight. So we are pivoting.”
What now: Legislators don’t want to be perceived as bailing out PG&E in an election year when much of the state is ablaze. Nor do they want PG&E to go bankrupt. On Sunday, lawmakers were considering legislation to:
- Help PG&E spread costs of the deadly 2017 fires over years.
- Create a disaster fund akin to flood insurance to help property owners cover fire losses. How to pay for that fund is to be determined.
- Help utilities pay to increase their insurance against disasters.
- Give utilities more power to clear trees near lines and permit better forest management. In other words, more logging to thin overgrown forests.
Stirring ashes: SDG&E has asked a state appellate court to let it bill ratepayers $379 million for San Diego’s 2007 wildfires.
Big plans and hard lobbying
Sen. Kevin de León.
Utilities are tying fire liability cost issues to their stand on environmentalist-backed legislation that would require California to produce 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045.
Remind me: Sen. Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Dianne Feinstein, proposed Senate Bill 100, setting the goal of attaining all of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2045.
Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, writing a New York Times opinion piece supporting the bill: “If any place on earth can handle this transition, it’s California, home to some of the planet’s strongest sunshine and many of its finest clean-tech entrepreneurs.”
The California Chamber of Commerce, Western States Petroleum Association and other business groups have more immediate concerns: “Wildfire liability and the consideration of future reforms for wildfire management … should take precedence.”
Pacific Gas & Electric Co’s opposition letter: “The financial health of utilities is critical to bring to fruition the continued progress that SB 100 contemplates and must be addressed before SB 100 moves forward.”
What’s ahead: The legislation awaits a vote in the Assembly. Moderate Democrats are opposing it, as are Republicans. The question: How hard PG&E and business groups will lobby to kill it in the coming days.
The Dude abides a sweet tax break
The high cost to local government of a 1986 property tax initiative is raising concern and causing second thoughts.
“I tried to do the right thing. Obviously, it had unintended consequences.”—former Democratic Assemblyman Thomas Hannigan, as quoted by the LA Times.
Back up: Voters approved the landmark property tax-slashing Proposition 13 in 1978. Hannigan successfully pushed Proposition 58 in 1986, allowing children who inherit a family home to keep the lower Proposition 13 property tax rates.
Fast-forward: The Times’ Liam Dillon and Ben Poston reported that the property tax break cost LA County schools and local government $280 million in revenue last year. The Legislative Analyst’s office last year estimated the annual statewide savings to heirs and cost to local government is about $1.5 billion.
The Times homed in on actors Jeff and Beau Bridges and their sister, who inherited a four-bedroom Malibu home with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and advertise it for rent at $15,995 a month. The Bridges would have paid an additional $300,000 in property taxes if the house had been reassessed when they inherited it.
Bottom line: Because voters approved the tax break, it would take a ballot measure to repeal it. It’s not going to disappear anytime soon.
Walters: Legislative leaders seek to reclaim power
CALmatters commentator Dan Walters: Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins aspire to re-establish the centralized legislative leadership eroded by term limits. To do so, they want bigger roles in amassing and dispensing campaign funds. A late-blooming bill, Assembly Bill 84, would do exactly that.
Walters: “Interestingly, however, AB 84 also draws opposition from the California Democratic Party … apparently, because it would erode the party’s powerful role in financing campaigns.”
Commentary: How CA can lead climate change fight
Guest commentator Rhea Suh of the Natural Resources Defense Council writes about Senate Bill 100, saying it “will mean better lives for the residents of California—more jobs, less pollution, more innovation and lower costs—and it will reduce state and national dependence on fossil fuel.”
See you tomorrow.