Good morning, California.
CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall and the First Amendment Coalition will moderate a conversation today at noon in Sacramento on a new transparency law that requires police to release records related to officer misconduct and shootings. Panelists will include Thomas Peele, David Snyder, David P. Mastagni and Sen. Nancy Skinner.
Registration details are here.
Attention taxpaying lookie-loos
The average CA state tax bill was $5,000 last year.
How did your tax bill compare this year with your neighbors’? Wonder no more, thanks to CALmatters’ Judy Lin.
- Underpinning the whopping $21.5 billion state budget surplus unveiled last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom is a gusher of state income tax revenue, Lin has noted. Most of that is extracted from rich Californians.
Still, the state Franchise Tax Board collects all sorts of tax data by ZIP Code, and the always-curious Lin was wondering what the bill was this year for average Californians.
- The statewide answer? $5,000 on $82,643 of income.
But wait—there’s more: If you’re wondering about the average income and tax payment in your ZIP Code, check out her cool interactive database here.
Tech giants and antitrust law
Should social media giants be investigated for antitrust violations?
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes wrote an eye-opening New York Times op-ed last week calling for the break-up of the behemoth he helped create. He’d find allies among four California Assembly Republicans.
- Assemblymen Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo, James Gallagher of Butte County, Tom Lackey of Palmdale and Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley sent a letter on Feb. 19 calling on the U.S. Senate and House to urge the Federal Trade Commission to open an antitrust investigation into social media giants:
“A handful of companies control most of the monetary and human capital, and have shown their willingness to buy competitors and aggressively consolidate the industry.”
The four urged Congress to consider updating antitrust law “to account for monopolistic power that is exercised and evidenced not through price increases but through monetizing personal data without the consent of the consumer.”
Republicans, who hold a mere 29 seats in the 80-seat Assembly, see privacy as an issue that resonates with voters.
Cunningham: “I’m a true believer in the policy, regardless of any politics. But you look at any poll, people are 80-90 percent in favor of privacy protections.”
Congress’ response to the letter: Crickets.
Privacy is on the agenda
Lawmakers are eyeing more bills to protect personal information.
Without a single no-vote, the Legislature passed far-reaching legislation last year to guard against data breaches and curb tech giants’ ability to collect your information.
- In bipartisan fashion, lawmakers see more opportunity to limit technology companies’ market power and their ability to collect personal information.
Democratic Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks of Oakland and Republican Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo are co-authoring one another’s bills, both of which await votes by the full Assembly:
- Cunningham’s bill would prohibit so-called smart speakers from recording owners’ conversations or storing the information.
- Wicks’ bill would protect small online retailers that depend on Amazon and a handful of other huge platforms. Among its provisions, the bill would restrict Amazon’s power to collect and store small retailers’ customer data, and require Amazon to clearly explain terms and conditions so small retailers aren’t blocked from the platforms.
Amazon and other tech companies oppose the bills, contending there are sufficient protections.
Money matters: Amazon has spent $1.02 million lobbying in Sacramento since the start of 2017, and $267,000 on California campaigns in the 2017-18 election cycle.
Retired judges sue
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye
Retired California judges are suing the Judicial Council of California and Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, claiming new limits on their their ability to get temporary judicial assignments constitutes illegal age discrimination.
- Retired Orange County Superior Court Judges Glenn Mahler and James Poole and retired Alameda County Superior Judge Julie Conger brought the suit, claiming a newly imposed 1,320-day cap on service by retired judges discriminates against older judges, the Recorder reports.
- Each has served more than 1,500 days in the program, the complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court says. As many as 72 judges have hit the 1,320-day cap.
Quentin Kopp, a former judge and senator from San Francisco, is representing the judges and tells the Recorder:
“Ageism in the workplace is alive and well. One of the best ways to fight stereotypes of aging professions is to identify discrimination in all forms as it occurs.”
The Judicial Council did not respond to the suit. However, records show:
- Conger earned $1.2 million as a retired judge on temporary assignment between 2008-2018.
- Mahler earned $1.5 million from 2008-2019.
- Poole earned $1.5 million between 2009-2019.
- Each receives monthly pensions of between $13,337 and $13,714, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System reports.
Retired judges are paid $763.32 a day, plus travel costs and per diem. Active Superior Court judges earn $207,424 a year.
Newsom’s change of heart
Gov. Gavin Newsom has a new plan for paying for health insurance expansion.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has thought better of using tax money intended to combat infectious disease to help cover the cost of providing health coverage to young adults who are in the country illegally.
- Why the change of heart? Sunshine.
Kaiser Health News’ Samantha Young reported last week on testimony by county public health officials in legislative budget hearings that Newsom’s proposal to pay for health coverage for undocumented immigrants ages 19-25 in part by taking money from their efforts to counter the spread sexually transmitted disease and, in some cases, measles.
Heeding those concerns, the Department of Finance’s Vivek Viswanathan told the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees in a letter Friday:
“The Administration has subsequently reevaluated this proposal due to the potential negative impacts to public health activities in these counties.”
The issue remains: How to pay for the coverage. That’s where budget writers come in.
- Newsom’s revised budget released last week lowered the estimated number of young adults who would seek the coverage, from 138,000 to 106,000, and lowered the cost projection from $260 million to $98 million in 2019-20. That’s manageable in a $213 billion budget with a $21 billion surplus.
Commentary at CALmatters
S. David Freeman, former utility executive: California can’t keep the lights on if we don’t have enough power available to meet demand at peak times, like in the evening when folks get home from work. The state has nowhere near enough storage to handle the thousands of megawatts of new renewable energy that will be coming down the pike.
Dan Walters, CALmatters: One consequence of much slower population growth is relatively declining political influence, not only in congressional seats but in presidential electoral votes based on those seats. The biggest impacts, however, will be felt in the socioeconomic realm.
See you tomorrow.