California safety regulators for the first time publicly posted safety ratings for the hundreds of dams under state jurisdiction on Friday, bowing to public pressure for more transparency after the failure of the Oroville Dam spillway in Feburary. Eight percent of dams under jurisdiction of the Division of Safety of Dams have deficiencies that keep them from being rated satisfactory, which is state’s the highest rating. Eleven of 229 dams in Los Angeles and five surrounding counties show up on the state’s list with a rating of fair or poor.
The 5-2 decision, upholding an appellate court ruling, was that the taxing constraints on local governments in the state constitution don’t apply to voter-generated ballot measures that raise taxes.
It was immediately interpreted by anti-tax and pro-tax forces as allowing initiatives for “special taxes” – those for specific purposes – to be approved by voters via simple majorities, rather than the two-thirds margins required for special taxes proposed by governments themselves.
Some humility from the authors would have been welcome about the risks of the radical restructuring that basic income would entail; Van Parijs and Vanderborght see only upside. To illustrate the downside potential, consider the poor results from annual per-capita payments of casino revenues to American Indian tribes (not discussed in the book). Some tribes enjoy a very high “basic income”—sometimes as high as $100,000 per year— in the form of these payments. But as the Economist reports, “as payment grows more Native Americans have stopped working and fallen into a drug and alcohol abuse lifestyle that has carried them back into poverty.” The magazine contrasts this fate with that of more successful tribes like Washington State’s Jamestown S’Klallam, which eliminated poverty by investing in tribal-owned small businesses instead of handing out cash grants.
In the case of California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, the court by a 5 – 2 majority held that statutes proposed by voter initiative need not be held to the same procedural standards as statutes proposed by local government agencies.
The opinion by Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar held that Proposition 218 does not limit voters’ ‘power to raise taxes by statutory initiative.’ A contrary conclusion would require an unreasonably broad construction of the term ‘local government’ at the expense of the people’s constitutional right to direct democracy, undermining our longstanding and consistent view that courts should protect and liberally construe it.
The California Legislature is moving for the first time in history to tax every residence and business about a dollar month for drinking water to generate $2 billion over the next 15 years to supposedly clean up contaminated ground water.
Although Senate Bill 623 is titled: “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund,” a coalition of agricultural and environmental lobbyists convinced its author Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) to amend the ground water cleanup bill that has been moving through the Legislature since February, to quietly add a water tax of 95 cents per month on every residence and business. The bill would also tack on $30 million in farm and dairy fees.