By Tori Richards, Investigative Reporter
California has a propensity for starting trends that sweep through the rest of the nation, whether it was the hippie era in the ’60s, high tech in the ’90s, or a host of environmental regulations in the 2000s, to name a few.
Politicians have run this fifth-largest economy in the world as a test case for radicalism, enacting some laws that turned out to be a disaster. Here are the top five:
California State Water Resources Control Board
The precursor to this agency was created in 1949 with legislation aimed at preserving the state’s vast water resources by enforcing laws and regulations. Citizens saw the agency as a welcome partner to the Golden State’s pristine ocean, beautiful homes, and stunning landscapes in the postwar era. But as the population grew, so did the board’s smothering clout, and it’s now viewed as the enemy by farmers and many rural communities that resemble dust bowls.
CALIFORNIA FARMS TURN TO DUST AS NEWSOM/WHITE HOUSE POLICIES WORSEN DROUGHT EFFECTS
Since 2008, the board has regulated the flushing of millions of gallons of water into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to protect an endangered fish. This water then flows into the ocean and is not diverted to parched farmland.
For more than a decade, farmers in the Central Valley have grappled with decreasing water levels that have forced them to cut back on crops or abandon their lands altogether, spiking food costs.
Some years, farmers receive no water allotment but watch while celebrity homes in Los Angeles and golf courses in Palm Springs continue to showcase massive green lawns. As California is once again in the midst of a drought and threats of rationing, the mandate of “fish over people” continues to draw ire.
Citizens placed this initiative on the ballot in 2014 as the “Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act ,” and it passed with 60% of the vote. Pushed by then-San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, it was billed as a way to give more attention to violent criminals by downgrading numerous felonies to misdemeanors.
One million felons with crimes such as grand theft, forgery, and fraud were eligible for resentencing, with most released from prison due to overcrowding, thereby saving the state money, proponents said.
It took just five years before criminals realized that they could steal from stores in broad daylight with little or no repercussions. Many rural cities don’t have enough police to respond to all the vehicle and home thefts, while San Francisco has been the poster child for violent smash-and-grab retail looting.
Assembly Bill 5
Who would think of passing a bill during a pandemic that makes it harder for people to find work? No one is surprised to learn that the “winner” is California. Newsom signed the gig worker bill in 2019 as a means to provide independent contractors with benefits. It forced employers in most situations to hire contractors as employees, who would then receive benefits such as healthcare and vacation.
Instead, companies like Uber and Lyft balked, along with other industries, including those that employ artists and journalists.
A hastily written measure was placed on the 2020 ballot to exempt Uber and Lyft , and it passed. Newsom then rolled back the artist and media segments, but the original law remains in place and is driving more businesses out of state. Some 40,000 businesses closed last year .
Like its partner, Prop. 47, this initiative had a glowing, misleading name: the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act. This 2016 ballot measure was billed as a way to clear out overcrowded prisons of nonviolent offenders with early parole, saving tens of millions of dollars.
Some of the felons eligible for early release would include sex traffickers, child molesters, hate crime offenders, and those who committed assault with a deadly weapon. Parole boards ruling on these cases were stymied by only being allowed to see the most recent offense.
Now, crime is rising across the state, but exact numbers are not available because statistics were not submitted to the FBI for an annual report. The state is apparently reclassifying its data, as various crimes no longer qualify as “violent” or as a felony.
However, local jurisdictions tell the true story, as in Oakland, with 100 murders this year. The Guardian analyzed crime data for the San Francisco Bay area and reported a 25% rise in homicides so far this year.
California Coastal Commission
During the 1970s, Californians became alarmed as large numbers of oceanfront developments were erected and nothing was in place to protect public access to the state’s 840 miles of coastline. Hence, the commission was born as a way to regulate future development and ensure sound environmental policies.
It didn’t take long before the commission started infringing on personal property and meting out illegal edicts, even ordering a restaurant to allow beachgoers to use its parking lot for free. The restaurant sued in a case that was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court , which ruled that the commission was unconstitutionally taking private property.
Now, the problem has been exacerbated with a 2014 rule by the Legislature that gives the commission power to levy fines of up to $11,250 per day. The number of new cases opened by the commission has skyrocketed as it attempts to take any land it wishes, attorneys told Reason magazine.
However, the agency is again headed toward the Supreme Court, as one homeowner balked at allowing the state to demolish part of his property for a walkway. He has been fined $4.2 million.