Study hard, California. Stay in school.

“The typical full-time year-round worker with only a high school diploma earns $36,000, while the typical worker with at least a bachelor’s degree earns $80,000.”—Public Policy Institute of California in a new report on the value of a degree, released today. The analysis also notes that finding room for the growing numbers of college-ready high school graduates and transfer students will require expanded capacity at UC, CSU, and private nonprofit colleges.

A watchdog barks up the wrong tree

BART spent public money on a ballot measure; FPPC fined it for not saying how much.

California’s campaign finance watchdog fined the Bay Area Rapid Transit District a modest $7,500 on Monday for failing to file campaign finance statements disclosing that it campaigned for a $3.5 billion bond in 2016.

  • Left unsaid: Public agencies are not supposed to use public funds for political campaigns.

The Fair Political Practices Commission can level sanctions for undisclosed campaign spending by public entities, but its authority doesn’t extend to whether political involvement was allowable in the first place.

The commission’s order: BART used $7,791 in public funds to produce videos and send texts to its followers to promote Measure RR, a bond for capital improvements. The measure won in a landslide.

Local district attorneys or the attorney general could sue agencies that use public money for campaigns, but rarely do. Typically, that’s left to private entities, such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Jarvis president Jon Coupal, referring to public entities’ use of public funds for campaign: “They’re getting away with murder. It’s easy to spend dollars if they’re not your dollars.”

Sen. Steve Glazer, an Orinda Democrat and a frequent BART critic: “The FPPC was correct to sanction BART for failing to properly disclose this illegal spending. But because of its narrow jurisdiction, the commission appeared to ignore the spending itself. I urge the attorney general’s office to investigate that spending immediately.”

Separately, the FPPC recently concluded that there is probable cause that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors used more than $800,000 in public funds for a campaign in favor of Measure H, a homeless services measure in in 2017. That matter is pending.

  • Another solution: The Legislature could expand the FPPC’s authority. Don’t count on it.

Trump pushes Clean Water rollback

Vernal pools in San Diego County, vulnerable under a proposed clean water rollback.

The first bill of the year out of the California Senate, sponsored by President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, was a measure one of her co-authors called “Trump Insurance.” Senate Bill 1 would preempt any attempt by President Donald Trump’s administration to weaken California environmental protections under federal law.

  • Sure enough, the L.A. Times reports the Trump administration as early as today could announce a roll-back of Clean Water Act protections for up to 80 percent of California’s inland waters. The move would make good on promises to agriculture and real estate interests and advance Trump’s effort to reverse Obama administration regulations intended to limit pollution.

Reality check: Don’t expect it to take effect any time soon, if ever.

  • Environmentalists would sue, as would Democratic attorneys general, probably including California’s AG, Xavier Becerra.
  • Then there’s Senate Bill 1, which would maintain federal environmental law as it affects California, regardless of federal action, letting the state enforce the rules prior to when Trump took office in January 2017.

Similar legislation pushed by Atkins’ predecessor, former Sen. Kevin de León, stalled in the Assembly earlier this year, but Democratic majorities in both chambers are substantially larger since the election. The number—SB 1—is a sign that it’s at the top of her to-do list.


Immigrant rule would hit CA hard

A proposed Trump rule would make it far harder to get a green card.

A proposed Trump administration rule that could dramatically limit federal aid to immigrants would cost California 17,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in lost economic output, a new study shows.

  • The Homeland Security Department’s proposed change to the Immigration and National Security Act’s so-called “public charge” rule says immigrants would risk their chance of getting green cards if they enroll themselves or their children in Medicaid, in CalFresh food assistance, or in federal housing aid, or even if they have high student loans or low credit ratings.
  • The public comment period on the change  proposal ended Monday. The rules are to be finalized in February.

Doug Rand, who worked on immigration issues in the Obama White House, to Wired: “You can view this as a backdoor, merit-based immigration system without Congress.”

DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, in a widely released statement: “This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”

In a joint statement in September, health officials, physician groups, hospitals and patient advocates across the country condemned the proposed changes and urged President Trump’s administration to withdraw the proposal.

  • Healthcare and food-related businesses would be hardest hit, according to the study by UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, UC Berkeley Labor Center and the nonprofit California Food Policy Advocates. Los Angeles County would suffer the brunt of the losses: 6,200 jobs and $992 million in lost output.

What’s ahead: Look for California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra to sue.

A Trekkie tax credit

A new Star Trek film will live long and prosper.

A new Star Trek series to be filmed in California will receive $15.6 million in tax credits under the state’s expanded film and TV tax credit program, the California Film Commission has announced.

  • Gov. Jerry Brown’s final budget included a $330 million a year tax credit program through 2025.
  • Several states have dropped tax credit programs, concluding that they spent more in taxpayer money than they received in benefits.

In California, the Legislative Analyst’s Office is working on a new analysis of the film tax credit. The LAO raised questions about the credit in 2016, concluding that about a third of the productions would have been made here regardless of the windfall.

  • But California has repeatedly extended its offers of credits in recent years to compete with New York, Georgia and other states that offer generous tax breaks intended to lure what they see as a glamour industry.

Eight new and recurring series got tax credits in addition to the new Star Trek series, said the Film Commission, which administers the program.

  • The nine projects will employ 1,820 cast members, 2,140 crew members and 25,000 extras or stand-ins, the commission says.

Commentary at CALmatters

Dean Florez, former legislator: Up to this point, information technology systems have been the province of system administrators. Now, a digital transformation must be a focus of incoming Gov. Newsom. The choice is simple. California can continue its role as a lighthouse state or let others pass us by.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: California lacks a comprehensive data system to track how well its K-12 students are learning, but that may change with Gavin Newsom’s succession to the governorship.

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected]org, 916.201.6281. Shawn Hubler, [email protected]edits WhatMatters. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.