In summary

California gets a net neutrality win. State has little to show for Hollywood investment, according to study. Funeral pricing remains a mystery.

Good morning, California.

“4 million people call LA home. 4 million stories. 4 million voices…sometimes you just have to stop and listen to one, to hear something beautiful.”—LAPD HQ tweeted.

A net neutrality win

Capitol lobbyists for internet service providers watched a 2018 vote for net neutrality.

California won a victory of sorts Tuesday in its effort to require that internet service providers treat internet content with neutrality, though the fight will continue.

The three-judge panel of D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2017 decision by the Trump administration’s Federal Communications Commission, siding with telecom giants, to repeal Obama administration regulations that required net neutrality.

But by a 2-1 margin, the judges ruled that the FCC could not preempt California from adopting its own net neutrality rules.

  •  The New York Times: “The mixed ruling … ensures that debate about so-called net neutrality rules will continue, including in state capitals.”
  • The San Francisco Chronicle: “California officials will still have to prove in court that their law doesn’t directly conflict with federal regulations—and experts aren’t confident it will survive.”

The decision stemmed from a suit brought by California and other states challenging the FCC’s attempt to preempt states from enacting net neutrality rules.

Remind me: A year ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation by Sen. Scott Wiener, San Francisco Democrat, that mirrored the Obama administration rule. 

  • Wiener: “This is a big win. If the FCC had the power to preempt states, our law would have been null and void. … Preemption has always been the biggest threat.” 

It’s not over:

  • There will be appeals.
  • The U.S. Justice Department has sued in federal court in Sacramento to block California’s law from taking effect
  • Telecom companies, which fought Wiener’s bill, also have sued the state. 

In the many fronts in the California-Trump administration war, few are more far-reaching than the one over net neutrality. It’s also one that drives a wedge between Trump and Republicans. Several Republican lawmakers voted for Wiener’s legislation.

Republicans can sue, too.

Photo illustration

It was a busy day for GOP-affiliated courtroom battles against the state of California, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher’s reports.

Republicans sued the state in the morning claiming it was failing to “ensure that non-citizens are never placed on the voter rolls.” 

In the afternoon, the Republicans won a court order blocking a new state law that would require presidential candidates (read Donald Trump) to publish their tax returns in order to appear on the March primary ballot.

Lawyers include Harmeet Dhillon, Republican National Committee chairwoman, and Mark Meuser, who ran against Secretary of State Alex Padilla in 2018.

To read Christopher’s full report, please click here.

Funeral pricing remains a mystery

Old cemetery, photo via Wikimedia Commons
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

When their father was dying of cancer in 2011, Ed and Kathy Howard tried to find out the cost of a funeral and couldn’t get a straight answer from multiple funeral homes.

Once their father was cremated, Ed Howard, an attorney and longtime Capitol lobbyist on consumer issues, decided to do something about it. On behalf of the Center for Public Interest Law, Howard pushed through legislation requiring that funeral homes post their prices on their websites.

  • Howard: “It matters because the practice, the intentional practice of hiding prices from grieving people, is just cruel, and a mean way to make money.”

Six years after the law took effect, only 45% of funeral homes prominently disclosed their prices, while 28% made it difficult if not impossible to determine the cost of a funeral, a new study by consumer groups found.

The Funeral Consumers Alliance, the Consumer Federation of America and two California consumer groups found significant disparity across the state:

  • 73% of funeral home websites in Los Angeles included  prominent disclosure.
  • 27% in Alameda County had prominent disclosures.

Howard: “It’s infuriating because the study documents that current law is not being enforced and there is a segment of this industry that is using every resource at its disposal to make the lives of grieving people more miserable.”

What’s ahead: The consumer groups urge that legislators tighten the law. They’ll almost certainly have a lobbyist willing to help out.

A Hollywood fantasy?

A study says California doesn’t benefit from Hollywood tax breaks.

States that use tax money to attract Hollywood productions get little or nothing for their investments, a USC researcher reports in a new study.

Michael Thom of USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy concludes that “as an economic development strategy, targeted incentive programs that carry large tax expenditures fail to encourage meaningful job creation.”

The study focused on New York, Louisiana, Georgia, Connecticut and Massachusetts, although 30-plus states granted motion picture incentives worth $1.7 billion in 2017.

  • Thom: Motion picture incentives “do not live up to their promises.”

California gives $330 million per year in film tax credits. Studios and organized labor push for the tax breaks, contending California must compete with New York, Georgia and other states that provide tax incentives.

In a 2018 study of California’s film tax credit, Thom wrote: “California taxpayers have little to show for their investment.”

And the winner is: “the motion picture industry which, thanks to the California legislature, receives an annual subsidy of up to $330 million.” 

To be continued: Legislation stalled this year that would have given added tax incentives to production companies that came back to California from states such as Georgia that have new laws restricting abortion.

Take a number: 102

Vape pens by JUUL, Blu, Njoy and others.
Vape pens (photo via Creative Commons, courtesy of

By a 68%-30% margin, California voters believe they were right to legalize the commercial sale of marijuana, a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll shows.

Voters approved the legalization initiative, Proposition 64 of 2016, 57%-43%.

The poll shows wide support across income and educational levels. People between 18 and 29 support legalization by 71%, and 74% of people in their 30s support it. 

Some exceptions:

  • People born in another country are split, 49% for legalization and 48% against.
  • 63.8% of voters in homes where Spanish is the dominant language oppose legalization.
  • 54% of evangelicals oppose it.
  • 65% of people who describe themselves as very conservative oppose legalization.

Meanwhile: The California Department of Public Health reported another Californian being hospitalized after vaping, bringing the total to 102 since June. Almost all individuals report vaping cannabis, though the cause remains unknown.

Commentary at CalMatters

Leslie Teicholz and Leif Wellington Haase, writer and consultant: The need for affordable housing scarcely requires more justification. But now that the state’s largest health care providers and reform advocates are backing affordable housing initiatives, it brings new momentum and ideas to debates in Sacramento.

 Dan Walters, CalMatters: A 44-year-old political battle about payouts for medical malpractice may be headed back to the ballot, unless doctors and lawyers reach agreement.

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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.