July 6, 2020

State Agency Creates Chaos in Gilroy

On Friday evening, July 3, officers from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) gave notice to restaurants in Gilroy and Morgan Hill to immediately cease all outdoor dining, in spite of the fact, State guidance allows for outdoor dining. ABC officers initially indicated that beginning July 1st a three-week cessation of all dining was required. When it was pointed out that the order only applied to indoor dining, ABC officers stated that Santa Clara County was never approved for outdoor dining by the State.

No one in the Cities of Gilroy, Morgan Hill or the County was given any notice that the State would be shutting down outdoor dining in Santa Clara County. Normally, when an operation like this is to occur, ABC would contact local law enforcement agencies, but in this case, neither Gilroy nor Morgan Hill Police were notified of the effort beforehand. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office was also kept in the dark. 

Upon learning of the attempt to shut down local restaurants, Gilroy Chamber President/CEO, Mark Turner, spent the evening communicating with Gilroy and Morgan Hill officials including Morgan Hill Chamber CEO, Brittney Sherman. Mark also contacted Supervisor Wasserman and Assemblymember Rivas. 

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce along with the City of Gilroy, Visit Gilroy and the Gilroy Downtown Business Association have taken action to ensure Gilroy businesses have the information and tools necessary to keep customers and employees safe during the reopening period. 

While the ABC agents and efforts by the state created confusion and chaos, Supervisor Wasserman indicated to Mark Turner that restaurants did not have to close their outdoor dining.

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce is continuing to seek answers for the events that occurred this past Friday evening and ensure our local restaurateurs have the right and ability to continue their outdoor dining operations. 

Governor Newsom’s Confusing COVID-19 Decrees

Opinion by Dan Walters, CalMatters

Managing something as new and unpredictable as the COVID-19 pandemic is, by its nature, a difficult task.

That said, Californians are rightfully confused by the rapid, even erratic, changes of course that Gov. Gavin Newsom has steered in recent weeks after drawing praise for his early and straightforward actions in the first days of the public health crisis.

Newsom’s regular, although no longer weekly, webcasts on COVID-19 have evolved into repetitive talkathons resembling those annoying public television fundraising breaks. At one he will boast of the state’s progress in slowing the infection rate, and at another chastise Californians for not wearing their masks and threaten a crackdown.

In March, Newson shut down large segments of the state’s previously booming economy and soon laid out seemingly firm markers that had to be met before reopening them. But as the economic toll mounted, with millions of suddenly jobless workers, he began to back off even as infections and deaths continued to mount. He gave counties the option to reopen their economies if they met certain criteria, saying “localism is determinitive” and seemingly shifting the political onus to local officials,

By early June, many segments of the economy were opening, but within a couple of weeks, infections and deaths were spiking alarmingly and Newsom was becoming defensive about the wisdom of reopening.

“When you have people that are struggling and suffering with severe mental health and brain health issues, when people are not attending to their physical and emotional needs, those social determinants of health also must be considered,” Newsom said on June 15. “We have to recognize you can’t be in a permanent state where people are locked away — for months and months and months and months on end — to see lives and livelihoods completely destroyed, without considering the health impact of those decisions as well.”

However, from rationalizing the reopening, Newsom has shifted in recent days to admonishing Californians for not being diligent enough in wearing the masks he mandated and avoiding large, virus-spreading congregations. He has hinted that he might have to clamp down on the economy once again and threatened counties that ignore state guidelines with a loss of state aid.

“We give an enormous amount of power, control and authority to local government, but what we’re now looking for is accountability,” Newsom said. “If they decide, ‘You know what? Even though the numbers are going up, we’re done. We’ve got this, and we’re just going to dismiss these new rules and regulations,’ we’re going to attach some considerations and consequences to that,” he warned.

Last week, just hours after issuing harsh warnings about noncompliance, he staged still another webcast that was characteristically long-winded, repetitive and full of techo-speak but eschewed admonitions and mostly returned to friendly, even fatherly, reminders about wearing masks.

“We’re still in the first wave of this pandemic,” he said. “We’re not in the second wave.”

Reporters, confined to brief inquiries via telephone, attempted in vain to elicit more clarity from Newsom about his policies, such as asking whether school children would be required to be masked when they returned to classrooms. He called it “a more complicated question than you can imagine” and said it would be answered at some indefinite point in the future.

OK, managing a pandemic is difficult, but it’s made more so when the manager’s messaging is erratic. It undermines the trust that’s central to effective crisis management — or “foundational,” to use one of Newsom’s favorite, much-repeated buzzwords.

Split Roll Tax Initiative Will Have Substantial Impact on Agriculture

By Brian German, Multimedia Journalist for AgNet West

Agricultural groups have serious concerns as it pertains to the split roll tax initiative that will be appearing on the November ballot. If the measure is passed it will make serious changes to Proposition 13 in reassessing commercial and industrial properties at fair market value. The California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) has joined the Californians to Save Prop 13 + Stop Higher Property Taxes coalition in opposing the initiative, as it could have devastating effects on the agricultural sector.

“Since the initiative only exempts agricultural land, it leaves improvements and associated fixtures to be taxed at fair market value,” said Robert Spiegel, Policy Advocate for CFBF. “This could very well be a dairy barn for example, a food processing facility, wineries, irrigation systems are necessarily improvements as well. So, anything that has been constructed upon the property that is nonresidential that arguably the proponents believe is an industrial component or a commercial component for agriculture would be taxed.”

The Schools and Communities First group is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative, naming it the Schools and Local Communities Funding Act. While proponents of the ballot measure, Initiative 19-0008, claim that agriculture would be exempt, Spiegel explained that only the land itself would not be affected by the reassessment.  Permanent crops may be subject to the split roll tax initiative if the measure is passed.

“Split roll could have a very direct impact on those who might happen to be tree and nut orchard farmers and/or vineyards,” said Spiegel. “Each one of those trees arguably then, or that vineyard, would be open to a fair market value assessment now under the initiative.”

Depending on how the split roll tax initiative is interpreted and how commercial agricultural production is defined, the impact on the industry could be vast and severe.  Not only would farmers and ranchers be impacted, but there are also concerns related to how the initiative will affect the rest of the food supply chain.  The entire processing and distribution network will all be “impacted by this initiative at fair market evaluation associated with commercial and industrial property as this initiative is designed to do,” Spiegel explained.

Office Space for Lease in Downtown Gilroy

Here Are The 12 Propositions on California’s November Ballot

By John Myers, Sacramento Bureau Chief, Los Angeles Times

California’s November election will feature 12 statewide ballot measures, dominated by an effort to repeal a ban on the consideration of race and gender in hiring and admissions decisions as well as complex rules on property taxation and criminal justice.

The combustible mix of proposals was presented on Wednesday by Secretary of State Alex Padilla and will be considered by what could be a record-high turnout of voters. Eight propositions earned a spot on the Nov. 3 ballot through the collection of voter signatures by prominent interest groups. Four were added to the list by the Legislature last month, each proposing to amend the California Constitution.

Here’s a quick glance at the key question each proposition will ask California voters to answer.

Proposition 14: More borrowing for stem cell research

It’s been 16 years since California voters approved borrowing $3 billion to finance a state government stem cell research program. The research organization created by that 2004 ballot measure has funded a variety of research projects and clinical trials, much of it through the University of California.

But now, the $3 billion has almost completely been spent. And the backers of the original effort want voters to authorize another round of borrowing by issuing $5.5 billion in government bonds to continue stem cell research. The total cost will be higher once interest payments are figured in.

There would be a few more rules for how research funds are spent by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the entity created by the 2004 ballot initiative. That includes a mandate to improve patient access to stem cell treatments. New grant awards would also be prioritized by projects that would use matching funds from outside sources. And some of the governance structure of the institute would also be changed in ways that supporters believe will improve public oversight.

Proposition 15: The battle over commercial property taxes

This is the political battle everyone has been expecting for decades, a long-debated effort to revise the property tax rules that have existed in California since the passage of the legendary Proposition 13 in 1978.

The ballot measure seeks to create a set of new rules for commercial property taxes while leaving the existing rules for residential property taxes in place. Commercial property owners would see their taxes go up and the resulting tax revenue would go to local government services and schools. The details, of course, are a little more complex.

Proposition 15 would allow market-rate values for commercial and industrial properties to be used as the basis for assessing property taxes owed and would phase in that change over three years. Some properties occupied by small businesses would have a longer transition period to the higher taxes, while some business property owners would be exempt from the new law.

The campaign will likely focus on whether the new tax revenue collected by loosening Proposition 13 — perhaps as much as $12.5 billion a year under one nonpartisan analysis — would outweigh any potential economic impact of requiring some businesses to pay more to operate in California. A variety of Democratic-leaning advocacy groups, including organized labor, believe it would. Business groups disagree and are staunchly opposed. This will be an expensive — and bitter — battle for your vote.

Proposition 16: A return to affirmative action

It’s been 24 years since California voters considered whether race, ethnicity and gender should be considered in awarding government contracts and admission to the state’s colleges and universities. The politics and demographics of the state were far different in 1996, when such considerations were outlawed with Proposition 209, an amendment to the California Constitution.

This ballot measure is only nine words long. It would simply repeal Proposition 209, allowing the practice often described as affirmative action to again be used in state. It was added to the ballot by the Legislature last month, setting up a discussion about systemic racism and inequities at the same time as a national reckoning on these topics.

Proposition 17: Would allow parolees to vote

There is a big difference between probation and parole in criminal justice and, at least in California, when it comes to having the right to vote. Probation is part of the sentence handed down and often allows those convicted of a felony to avoid time behind bars; parole begins upon release from prison, in advance of when the sentence ends.

But the California Constitution allows someone on probation to vote, while removing the voting rights of a parolee until the time of parole has been completed. This proposal, placed on the ballot by the Legislature, would remove that restriction and allow a person on parole to vote.

Rules barring parolees from voting vary by state, though the trend has been toward restoring those rights. A survey conducted by a pro-voting rights group last year estimated that the ban on parolees voting in elections affects about 40,000 Californians.

Proposition 18: Would allow some 17-year-olds to vote

This constitutional amendment, placed on the ballot by the Legislature, would allow 17-year-olds to register and vote in primary elections if they turn 18 by the time of the general election in November.

At least 18 states have similar laws on the books, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Supporters of the proposal argue that more of these new voters will get engaged with issues if they can participate in a full election cycle. As it stands now, an 18-year-old Californian whose birthday was after the March 3 presidential primary missed out on the chance to pick some candidates and now gets to vote only for one of the smaller group of hopefuls who made it to the Nov. 3 ballot.

Proposition 19: Adding and subtracting property tax breaks (John Bazemore / Associated Press)

The final measure added to the Nov. 3 ballot by the Legislature replaced a similar initiative drafted by the California Assn. of Realtors. Both had similar goals, but this measure is a bit more far-reaching.

If approved by voters, California homeowners who are 55 or older can purchase a new home and keep their property tax payment at the same level or a reduced rate — depending on the value of the new house. This expands a long-standing program that is available only in a few counties. The impact is clear: Older Californians who might otherwise be reluctant to change homes and pay higher property taxes would receive a new break.

Proposition 19 also expands the property tax break for older homeowners to those who lose their home to a wildfire, a program now limited to other kinds of natural disasters.

The ballot measure also cracks down on the transfer of a home from a parent to an adult child in which the property tax payment doesn’t change. In 2018, a Times investigation found wealthy Californians — including the families of Hollywood celebrities — who charged monthly rents much higher than the annual tax payment. This ballot measure would narrow the tax break to homes being lived in by the owner , and would place a new limit on how much of a home’s value could remain unchanged when the property was transferred. Most of the resulting revenues collected by narrowing this tax break would go toward local firefighting efforts.

Proposition 20: Tougher on parole, property crimes (Los Angeles Times)

California voters have weighed in twice in recent years to reduce the punishment for crimes considered by existing law to be among those less serious than violent felonies. In 2014, Proposition 47 was passed to reduce the penalties for some theft and drug crimes. In 2016, Proposition 57 offered a chance of parole to some serving prison sentences for crimes that don’t fall on the state’s list of violent crimes.

Both laws have been the subject of intense debate over whether they are the right step toward reducing the prison population and promoting rehabilitation or a wrong step that has led to an escalation in crime by repeat offenders.

This ballot measure would place new limits on some of the sentence reductions included in Proposition 47 and Proposition 57. It would allow some theft-related crimes to be charged as felonies and it would create two new crimes: serial theft (applicable only to a select list of crimes and to defendants who have prior convictions for certain crimes) and organized retail theft (two or more people involved in some theft crimes within a 180-day period). Both crimes could result in jail time.

Proposition 18 also would change the 2016 parole law championed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, which blocked inmates convicted of crimes including human trafficking and solicitation from being considered for early release. It also would change some of the rules that must be followed by the state Board of Parole Hearings and community probation programs. And it would expand DNA testing to require samples be taken from some people convicted of theft and domestic violence.

Proposition 21: Rent control redux

Growing concerns over California’s lack of affordable housing have made rent control — a government-imposed cap on what landlords can charge their tenants — a hot topic in the state’s biggest cities and at the state Capitol. Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law restricting annual rent increases to no more than 5% plus inflation, one of the strictest statewide caps on rent hikes in the country.

That law was written after California voters rejected a statewide rent control measure in 2018 championed by Los Angeles activist Michael Weinstein. This year, he’s trying again. Weinstein filed his new initiative just months after the defeat of his former effort, Proposition 10.

The 2018 ballot measure would have rescinded a state law that limits new local rent control ordinances. Proposition 21 is more modest, and would instead narrow that law. If it passes, cities and counties could apply rent control to housing that is more than 15 years old, with the exception of some single-family homes. The ballot measure would allow local governments to impose limits on rent increases when a new renter moved in.

The measure would supersede any local rent control rules. In Los Angeles, for example, it could mean many more housing units would be eligible for limits on what a landlord could charge.

Proposition 22: Special workplace rules for the gig economy (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The bitter fight over designating a worker as an employee or an independent contractor dominated the final days of the legislative session in Sacramento last year. The resulting law, Assembly Bill 5, imposes new criteria to determine the correct employment status for what was estimated up to 1 million Californians.

But AB 5 wasn’t the end of the battle, with critics arguing that additional flexibility is needed in a variety of professions. Few were as unhappy with the law as app-based companies Uber and Lyft, which joined forces to immediately file a ballot measure creating another set of rules that would apply to their drivers.

In its simplest form, Proposition 22 would clearly designate those drivers to be independent contractors — contrary to what Democratic legislators and labor unions that backed AB 5 intended. But the companies wrote the ballot measure in a way that would offer those drivers several new but smaller benefits than they would have if they were actual company employees.

Drivers would be guaranteed an hourly wage — slightly above the state minimum wage — for time spent driving; a monthly health insurance stipend for some drivers, based on the hours they work per week; new medical and disability benefits if a driver is injured while driving; and new rules pertaining to rest periods, sexual harassment and criminal background checks.

In doing so, the ballot measure would distinguish the rules for app-based contractors from those applying to other sectors of the California economy.

Proposition 23: Kidney dialysis clinic rules revisited

Like the do-over ballot measure on rent control, this is the second straight November election in which California voters will be asked to approve a new law governing kidney dialysis clinics in the state.

About 600 dialysis clinics in California serve about 80,000 patients per month, according to a state legislative analysis. To address the patients’ needs, clinics often operate longer hours each day and are open for six days a week.

The ballot measure would require every clinic to have at least one physician present during all operating hours. The clinics would have to offer the same level of care to all patients, regardless of whether the treatment is paid for by private insurance or a government-funded program such as Medi-Cal or Medicare. Clinic administrators would have to report more information about infections among their dialysis patients, and the state Department of Public Health would have a new role in agreeing to changes at a clinic or its closure.

The initiative was placed on the ballot by a union representing healthcare workers and will be opposed by the dialysis clinics, with other healthcare industry groups also weighing in by election day. These were largely the same forces that fought it out over Proposition 8 in 2018, which also would have imposed new rules on dialysis clinics and was rejected by voters.

Proposition 24: New consumer privacy rules

California’s sweeping new consumer privacy law went into effect in January and strict state enforcement began on July 1. It gives individuals much more control over data collected by a variety of businesses. Consumers must be told if data is being collected or sold, they can ask that their information be deleted and businesses are prohibited from charging more to customers who ask for more privacy.

The measure on November’s ballot, championed by a San Francisco real estate developer who pushed lawmakers to enact the 2018 law, goes further. It creates a new definition in state law of data “sharing” in an attempt to make more businesses subject to privacy rules. Consumers would also have new rights to limit the sharing of their personal information and to correct inaccurate information.

Penalties for companies that break the law would go up under Proposition 24, with even higher fines for information related to children. And a new consumer protection agency would be established in state government.

Proposition 25: Yes or no on cash bail (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

This measure is a referendum, a special kind of ballot measure asking voters whether to approve or reject a law passed by the Legislature. In this case, it’s the fate of a 2018 law abolishing cash bail in California.

Companies representing the bail industry quickly gathered signatures on a referendum after the law was signed. As a result, it’s been on hold and is awaiting a final decision by voters this fall.

That the bail companies sought a second opinion isn’t surprising. The historic law would eliminate the industry’s practice of offering cash to those who can’t afford to pay for early release. Instead, the law gives judges wide discretion to decide who can be released prior to trial. Defendants deemed to be a danger to the community could be held under a policy known as “preventive detention.”

A wide array of state officials, including California’s chief justice, support the law.

Civil rights groups, in particular, say the cash bail system too often has led to decisions based less on public safety and more on the ability to pay.

Voters who say “yes” on this measure will be giving their approval of the law to end cash bail. Voters who say “no” will be rejecting the law and affirming the system as it has existed for decades.

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