Resistance State: California in the Age of Trump
Between Sacramento and Washington D.C. sits the rest of the country, and a chasm. On immigration and taxes, guns and healthcare, cannabis and climate change, California is the federal government’s equal and opposite reaction. One year into President Trump’s first term, the push and pull continues—playing out under the Capitol dome, in the courts and on Twitter.
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It’s too soon to say if the Trump administration’s decision to impose stiff tariffs on cheap Chinese solar panels will make it more difficult for California to dramatically ramp up renewable energy.
But the move—which adds a 30 percent tax on imported solar components—will certainly make it more expensive.
Reaction in the state has been swift. The residential and utility-scale solar industries are key players in California, with manufacturing and installation companies based here and thousands of jobs dependent on what is the fastest-growing energy sector.
The Solar Energy Industries Association, an advocacy group, estimated the tariffs could kill as many as 23,000 jobs nationwide this year and would discourage investment. An estimated 100,000 Californians are employed in some facet of the solar industry.
Sen. Bob Wieckowski represents a Bay Area district that’s home to a handful of solar companies affected by the tariffs.
“Local employers are already saying it will have adverse effects on their ability to install more solar panels because of the rising costs,” Wieckowski said.
The administration’s decision did not single out Chinese products, but companies in China are, far and away, the leading exporters of solar panels and cells. China’s strategy to ramp up production and increase innovation has driven down the cost of solar energy and made renewable sources much more competitive.
The lower costs, along with federal and state tax incentives, have allowed the burgeoning adoption of residential rooftop installation.
That market shift has come at the right time for California, which has a target of deriving 50 percent of its energy from clean sources by 2030. In the state Air Resources Board’s recent accounting of greenhouse-gas emissions found that the electric sector was a success story, cutting the most emissions in 2016. The agency concluded that California’s large utilities are already at or near the state’s 2020 goal of 33 percent renewable energy.
Solar is driving much of that reduction. So much so that some in the Legislature have called for even more ambitious targets. State Senate leader Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat, has proposed that California be required to go all-in: 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
De León lashed out at the tariff decision in a tweet, saying, “Trump is willing to harm 50,000 American #solar jobs—the equivalent of the entire US coal sector—and raise your energy bills to cater to his coal industry donors. Bad for America, bad for the economy and terrible for our children’s futures.”
The solar tariffs are set to phase out after four years, dropping from 30 percent in the first year to 25 percent in the second, 20 percent in the third and 15 percent in the fourth.
The Trump administration indicated that its action was intended to protect American companies. But domestic solar manufacturing is sluggish, at best. The bulk of the business in the United States, aside from installation and sales of solar gear, is elsewhere on the supply chain, centered on manufacturing materials other than panels.
“It boggles my mind that this president—any president, really—would voluntarily choose to damage one of the fastest-growing segments of our economy,” Tony Clifford, chief development officer of Standard Solar, said in a prepared statement.
California already has taken its first shot at countering the Trump administration’s plan to deny funding for reproductive health services to any organization that provides abortions or makes referrals for the procedure.
This week California led a coalition of 19 states and the District of Columbia in backing a Planned Parenthood motion for an injunction to halt the federal plan. The states’ brief was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The Trump administration today is expected to release the details of its proposal to change the requirements for the funds, known as Title X money, effectively taking it away from groups like Planned Parenthood and instead awarding it to groups advocating natural family-planning methods and abstinence-only education.
According to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California receives about $20.4 million a year in Title X money, which helps provide family-planning and other reproductive health services to roughly 1 million low-income Californians.
“Medical care is a matter between a woman and her doctor, not the President or the Vice President,” Becerra said in a March 18 statement.
According to reports from the New York-based nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group, roughly half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. The rate of unintended pregnancies would jump by 66% without publicly funded contraceptive services, a Guttmacher report said—and unplanned pregnancy rates for teens would be 73% higher.
The Institute said Planned Parenthood is the source of birth control for about a third of all low-income women who get it through the Title X program.
“Title X is not abortion care,” said Jennifer Conti, a Stanford physician who provides abortions. “One of the things even my close friends and relatives don’t understand is that Title X funds have never been used to provide abortion care. This seems like a punitive rule for groups like Planned Parenthood.”
Conti said what rankles her most about the proposed rule is the restriction on discussing where patients can get an abortion.
“This new rule would force us to lie to our patients,” she said. “Not that we couldn’t discuss abortion—but not being able to discuss how to carry out an abortion or where to get it, I think that puts patients’ lives in danger.”
The Orange County anti-sanctuary uprising takes the national stage today, as a coalition of politicians are in Washington to talk Republican political strategy with President Trump.
It’s a big day for these conservative California politicos, who come from a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2 to 1 in the Legislature and the GOP voice has been largely muted. About a dozen of them were invited to attend an afternoon meeting in Washington with Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and ICE director Thomas Homan.
They’re gathering to discuss how to attack California’s sanctuary law passed last year that places some limits on cooperation with federal immigration information requests.
Dozens of cities and counties across California have passed resolutions or joined a federal lawsuit opposing that law, with the epicenter of that opposition in Orange County. It began with the small city of Los Alamitos, which passed a local ordinance that breaks state law. Other cities haven’t gone that far, but at least 13 of the 34 cities in Orange County have joined the resistance with statements of support. And the county board of supervisors voted to join the federal lawsuit against three California sanctuary laws.
Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel is part of the group meeting with the President, and so is the mayor of Los Alamitos, Troy Edgar. In an email, Edgar outlined what he hopes to discuss with Trump:
“First, I plan to thank him for our mutual interest in upholding the Constitution and I look forward to contributing to this dialogue on sanctuary and immigration law and policies,” Edgar said. He also hopes to get some financial help in fighting a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against Los Alamitos’ ordinance, and any impending lawsuit that might be brought by the state of California.
“There will continue to be a significant price that comes with beginning this revolt in California,” Edgar said. “Any assistance that our city can be provided by direct or indirect funding would be appreciated.”
By early afternoon, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown weighed in:
🤥 @realDonaldTrump is lying on immigration, lying about crime and lying about the laws of CA. Flying in a dozen Republican politicians to flatter him and praise his reckless policies changes nothing. We, the citizens of the fifth largest economy in the world, are not impressed.
— Jerry Brown (@JerryBrownGov) May 16, 2018
Opposition to the sanctuary law is one of the few issues where Republicans have found a little political traction in California, and they plan to make immigration one of their cornerstone issues in the upcoming midterm elections.
The GOP faces an uphill battle for voters in California. They actually come in third in percentage of the state’s voters—with just 25.9 percent of registered voters, the Republicans not only trail the Democrats’ 44. percent but also are outnumbered by 29.4 percent of independent voters who choose no-party or other party affiliations.
According to Politico, the anti-sanctuary contingent includes Steel, Edgar, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, Riverside County Assembly member Melissa Melendez, and Los Alamitos City Council member Warren Kusumoto, along with some municipal and law enforcement officials.
The standoff between California and the Trump administration over automobile emissions standards continued this week, despite reports that the president ordered two federal agencies to begin negotiating with the state.
Trump met with automakers last week, and industry officials reportedly told the president they hoped he could sort out differences with California, which sets its own emissions standards.
In practice, the state’s stringent requirements have been adopted as a benchmark in the national fuel-efficiency standard. The auto industry earlier agreed to make cars gradually more fuel efficient, adding that no one wins if there are two sets of emissions standards.
That agreement, established during the Obama administration, is under review by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, which have signaled an intention to roll back the standards.
According to a report by the Associated Press, Trump left a meeting with auto executives Friday and directed the two agencies to enter talks with California to resolve the issue.
No one from the administration has yet contacted the California Air Resources Board, which regulates automobile emissions, according to spokesman Stanley Young.
California and more than a dozen other states are suing the federal government to prevent any reduction in the standards.
Note: This post was updated to clarify which rules California sets.