Tag Archive for Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg

Latest Scheme for Career Technical Education: School Districts Borrowing Money with “Social Impact Bonds” – Unions on Board

On March 19, 2013, California State Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg led a press conference to promote Senate Bill 594 (California Career Pathways Investment, also known as the High School Dropout Reduction & Workforce Development Bond Act of 2013) meant to encourage partnerships among school districts, corporations, and unions for career technical education in California K-12 schools and community college districts.

Senator Steinberg also promoted this bill on March 22 at Redevelopment Forum: Revitalizing our Neighborhoods in a Post-Redevelopment Era, hosted by the San Diego Foundation. SB 894 is apparently a serious initiative.

It establishes an unfunded mandate for K-12 school districts and community college districts to create a new pool of money called a “Career Pathways Investment Trust Fund.” These districts can borrow money for the program by selling “Social Impact Bonds” (a concept promoted by the “progressive” Center for American Progress) for which investors can earn “Career Pathways Investment Credits.” This will be overseen by a new state government board called the “California Career Pathways Investment Committee.” The appointments of the Assembly Speaker and Senate Rules Committee to this committee will likely be union officials.

Senate Bill 594 exemplifies the foolishness of governance in the California State Legislature:

  • bizarre and incomprehensible financing schemes
  • borrowing money (with interest) without consideration of cumulative debt service
  • unfunded state mandates
  • forcing the state’s local governments to create and manage another pool of money
  • inviting more corruption at local governments
  • creating another state government board
  • tax breaks to corporations for ambiguous purposes
  • intrusion of corporations and unions into the public school system
  • brilliant suggestions that freed-up funds from a few cuts in the state budget can be transferred to pay for it
  • lack of concrete evidence that there is a problem (in fact, testimony during the press conference suggested the big problem is a lack of jobs, not lack of training)
  • government solutions for something that could be handled by the free market if there was real demand

When Governor Schwarzenegger promoted his Career Technical Education initiative in 2007, he considered it worthy enough to propose paying for it out of the general fund through the annual state budget. His efforts were not deemed worthy of mention at the SB 594 press conference.

Here’s my March 20, 2013 article in www.UnionWatch.org about the press conference and Senate Bill 594: Businesses Can Make a “Social Impact Bond” with Unions – www.UnionWatch.org – March 20, 2013.

The Sacramento Bee posted an article on March 21, 2013 about Senate Bill 594, Steinberg Pushes Privately Funded Career Training Program, which quotes me as a skeptic:

But skeptics wonder how the career readiness programs would be funded.

“They need to stop coming up with new funds and new schemes paid for by borrowed money,” said Kevin Dayton, head of the consulting firm called Labor Issues Solutions. “New things like this are just a big distraction. If they want to do career education they should fund it in the general budget.”

I posted these comments under the article:

Do you want your K-12 school district or community college district to establish a “Career Pathways Investment Trust Fund” and oversee yet another pool of money? It’s a mandate.

Let’s create another state government board: the “California Career Pathways Investment Committee!” The appointments of the Assembly Speaker and Senate Pro Tem will certainly be union officials.

Do you want your K-12 school district or community college district to sell “Social Impact Bonds?” Who will pay the interest on these bonds? Who will make the money on the interest?

“Career Pathways Investment Credits” – how about just focusing on an efficient, responsible government with a simple tax structure?

As another comment indicated, “the State has funding for apprentices (it contributes about 5% of the cost to train an apprentice – the rest coming from employers)…”

I also mentioned this in my comment:

One is led to believe Senate Bill 594 is needed because California businesses can’t find skilled workers. But notice the nurses’ association representative says the problem is that trained nurses can’t find jobs in California and therefore need to move out-of-state. And is there really a shortage of skilled construction workers in California right now? Are there no longer 20%-30% unemployment rates in the building trades? Or is SB 594 for training disadvantaged union workers to build the California High-Speed Rail under the Project Labor Agreement?

Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton wrote positively about the general concept of encouraging career technical education (he avoids the politically correct phrase and simply calls it “shop”), but his column (Reinvigorating ‘Career Tech’ a Worthy Goal – Los Angeles Times – March 20, 2013) also reveals that the supporters don’t understanding the funding scheme:

Steinberg’s legislation is a bit convoluted — at least the financing part — and needs much work…Steinberg is suggesting several financing methods, including tax credits and foundation grants. But the main money source involves bonds. The state would sell “workforce development bonds” — say, for $1 million a crack — to businesses in areas “with the greatest potential for high-wage job growth.” The bond revenue would pay for the career-tech programs. The bond-buyers would earn a rate of return based on a program’s results, as judged by some committee. “I’m not sure I completely understand it,” Zaremberg [Allan Zaremberg, President & CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce] told me. “Why don’t we just fund this out of existing resources? Is this not a priority? … like Zaremberg, he [Jack Stewart, President of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association] doesn’t quite grasp the bond idea.

Dan Walters is another California commentator who has written much over many years about the need for stronger career technical education programs in California public schools. (For example, see Technical Education Fight RagesSacramento Bee – November 19, 2007)  I look forward to reading his perspectives on Senate Bill 594.

Bill Introduced in State Senate to Suppress Authority of California’s Charter Cities to Establish Their Own Policies on Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates

California State Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg issued a press release on February 19, 2013 announcing the introduction of Senate Bill 7, which would impose a financial disincentive on any of California’s 121 charter cities that establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). See Bi-Partisan Bill by State Senators to Require Prevailing Wage Jobs in California Charter Cities.

At least 53 of the 121 charter cities in California establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates, with 43 of them providing for a complete exemption. (See page 18 of this guidebook and add two for Newport Beach and Bakersfield.)

Most recently, the charter city of Newport Beach established its own policy concerning government-mandated construction wage rates in January 2013, and the charter city of Bakersfield established its own policy concerning government-mandated construction wage rates in October 2012.

(For more details, see Newport Beach Is Latest California Charter City to Establish Its Own Prevailing Wage Policy: 7-0 Unanimous Vote for Fiscal Responsibility and Common Sense and Bakersfield Becomes Latest of California’s 121 Charter Cities to Free Itself from Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates – So-Called “Prevailing Wage”)

In July 2012, the California Supreme Court (in State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista) upheld a longstanding practice among charter cities to use their local authority to implement their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). These policies can apply to public works projects receiving public funding only from the city or private projects receiving public assistance with monetary value that only comes from the city.

State-mandated construction wage rates can be 5%-30% higher than actual market wages in a locality, depending on the geographic region and the trade. Under current state law, the state does not conduct surveys of contractors or workers to determine “prevailing wages.” Instead, the California Division of Labor Statistics and Research collects union collective bargaining agreements, adds up all of the employer payments in the agreements (including payments to trust funds that are not employee wages or fringe benefits), and declares the total to be the prevailing wage.

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (an umbrella lobbying group for construction unions) detests charter cities that establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates. Unions want all local governments to submit to state law, which imposes these political demands of unions (1) broadly define public works to encompass many private projects; and (2) calculate so-called prevailing wage rates using union collective bargaining agreements.

Construction unions have also aggressively opposed proposed charters and have recently stopped movements for charters in Elk Grove, Redding, Rancho Palos Verdes, Auburn, Costa Mesa, Escondido, and Grover Beach.

For a comprehensive, authoritative guide to the status of policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates in California’s 121 charter cities, see Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

Also, see general information about Charter Cities from the League of California Cities.

Campbell’s Soup Food Processing Plant in Sacramento to Close, 700 Jobs to Other, Less “Enlightened” States

UPDATE – 5:57 p.m. on September 27, 2012: Melissa Wiese at the Sacramento Business Journal reports that the closing of the Campbell’s Soup food processing plant in Sacramento will not affect the Campbell Cogeneration Power Plant, operated by a joint powers authority consisting of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and the Modesto Irrigation District. According to Wiese, “SMUD diverts steam to the plant for Campbell. Now they won’t.” Good research and reporting!

Procter & Gamble Sacramento Campbell's Soup FacilityThe liberals who control California are already pointing out that Campbell’s Soup has been threatening to close its Sacramento food processing plant for at least 20 years, but today (September 27, 2012) it actually happened. Another manufacturing plant closes in California.

These jobs aren’t going to China. Campbell’s Soups will shift the Sacramento plant’s share of soup production to its plants in North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas. More people will be fleeing California.

At 10:25 a.m., there are already 500 comments posted at the Sacramento Bee article that went up on the web at 6:45 a.m about the closure. People are angry, and the majority of them are blaming state and local government.

Campbell Soup Announces Closing of Sacramento PlantSacramento Bee – September 27, 2012

To try to help Governor Jerry Brown and the Democrat majority in the legislature spin this job loss into a positive development for California, I posted my advice in a comment:

Does anyone know if the Campbell’s Soup Cogeneration Power Plant will be affected by this plant closure? It’s a 160 MW gas-fired power plant owned by the Sacramento Power Authority, a joint powers agency of Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and the Modesto Irrigation District. There is some sort of codependent relationship between the food processing plant and the power plant related to the use of steam and water.

Spin Tips for Governor Brown and the Democrat majority in the legislature:

1. If the power plant closes along with the rest of the operation, declare the plant closure to be a good thing for California, because it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, brings the state closer to AB 32 guidelines, and becomes a “Global Warming Solution.”

2. Those workers were emitting a lot of greenhouse gases when they commuted to and from the plant from the suburbs – now they’ll be taking their dirty vehicle emissions to less enlightened states, apparently North Carolina, Texas, and Ohio. This helps the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to achieve its transportation goals under SB 375 (authored by Senator Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento).

3. California’s food nannies indicate that Campbell’s soups have a lot of salt in them, causing hypertension and public health problems in California. Kale is the healthy alternative.

See, those job losses aren’t so bad, people of California!

CEQA Reform is Over for This California Legislative Session: Sustainable Environmental Protection Act May Return in 2013

CEQA reform is over for this legislative session.

Some union officials, environmental lobbyists, and lawyers specializing in exploiting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) are celebrating with emailed bulletins and tweets. (See the August 23, 2012 “Sierra Club California Statement on Abandonment of Environmentally Dangerous Bill.”) One particularly happy Tweeting union leader is Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego County Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

That’s no surprise if you read my August 8 post,”Unions Submit 436 Pages of Objections to Draft Environmental Impact Report for Proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase III Expansion Project: CEQA Abuse Run Rampant.”

UNITE HERE Local 30 (based in San Diego) and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council have filed a massive CEQA objection with the United Port of San Diego concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase III Expansion Project and the adjacent Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel expansion.

Here are some recent Tweets from Lorena Gonzalez ‏@LorenaSGonzalez:

And the Rubio #CEQA reform bill is officially dead! Yay!

URGENT: Don’t let them gut California Environmental Quality Act. Sign NOW: http://SaveCEQA.com  #CEQA #SaveCEQA

I support #CEQA. Gutting 40 years of progress will hurt the environment, workers and the public! These aren’t reforms, they go too far.

So happy to see most of our SD Democratic Legislators asking their colleagues to keep their hands off CEQA #SaveCEQA

Meanwhile, I posted this in the comment section of the Sacramento Bee article, “Bid to Overhaul California Environmental Law Falls Short“:

The Sierra Club representative called the bill “one of the worst attacks on environmental protections that we’ve seen in the 40-year life of this law.” They actually mean, “one of the worst attacks on our political agenda from Democrats, whom we thought would never betray us by supporting economic growth and job creation.”

Actually, it’s questionable whether or not this “Sustainable Environmental Protection Act” of 2012 would have been all that effective in hindering the professional CEQA operators – the people who use CEQA for economic or financial objectives. It was certainly tame and weak compared to Assembly Bill 598, for which the Sierra Club lobbyist took great offense during a January 9, 2012 hearing of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. If that bill had become law, it would have shut down the CEQA extortion industry by limiting the authority to file lawsuits under CEQA to the California Attorney General.

The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council can continue to enjoy their “Blue-Green Alliance” of convenience with labor unions and turn a blind eye to how CEQA is exploited for purposes other than environmental protection, such as coercing Project Labor Agreements, Neutrality Agreements, etc.

They’ve been coasting for 40 years on the Friends of Mammoth v. Board of Supervisors of Mono County decision of the California Supreme Court in 1972, which stunned many by applying CEQA to private projects and activities. One day soon the political pendulum will swing to the Right in this state (probably after the state tries to file for bankruptcy), and then AB 598 will become law.

In the meantime, enjoy the CEQA paperwork! For example, here’s what the Fresno County Planning and Land Use Division has been dealing with as unions object to proposed solar energy power plants:

The Fresno County Planning and Land Use Division responds on August 7, 2012 to a request for records concerning submissions of the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) concerning proposed solar energy generation projects.

Unions Use Power Over California Legislature to Suppress Local Government Contracting Authority and Push for Project Labor Agreements

On April 12, the California State Assembly approved Senate Bill 829, a union-backed proposal to exert additional pressure on voters and local elected officials to abandon any policies or policy aspirations to prohibit their local governments from entering into contracts that require construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) with construction trade unions.

Political party affiliation determined the 50-23 vote (with seven legislators not voting): Democrats supported it; Republicans opposed it.

Senate Bill 829 is the latest move of California unions in their quest to stop ambitious local grassroots movements to protect fair and open bidding competition on taxpayer-funded construction. Union leaders recognize there are still a few political officials and business leaders in California who haven’t surrendered or acquiesced to the political power of the California Labor Federation and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. Unions are using their firm grip on the California State Legislature to derail this movement before it spreads out of their control throughout the state.

Round One: The First State Government Attack on Behalf of Unions to Stifle Local Control

In the chaotic and emotional waning days of the 2011 legislative session, the California State Assembly Speaker – John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) – and the leader of the California State Senate – Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) – gutted and amended Senate Bill 922, a bill originally introduced by another legislator about tuberculosis screening. As the new authors of the hijacked bill, these legislative leaders turned it into a high-priority union-backed bill meant to stop the proactive efforts of voters and local elected officials to blunt union interference in the competitive bidding process.

Despite aggressive opposition from construction associations, taxpayer groups, local elected officials, and local government organizations such as the California State Association of Counties (see opposition statement here) and the League of California Cities (see opposition statement here), Senate Bill 922 whipped through the Assembly and Senate on strict party-line votes – Democrats in support; Republicans in opposition. Claiming the bill “seems fair to me – even democratic,” Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law.

Senate Bill 922 (now Public Contract Code Section 2500) prohibits California’s 58 counties from enacting charter provisions or ordinances that forbid counties from entering into contracts that require construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) with unions. The bill also prohibited California’s 362 “general law” cities from enacting such ordinances, because general law cities must submit to the authority of the state government for their municipal contracting policies.

But the legislature could not use Senate Bill 922 to directly undermine the local contracting authority of California’s 120 charter cities that exercise “home rule” with their own local charters. Charters are essentially mini-constitutions that allow city governments to supersede state authority over purely municipal affairs.

Instead of using a stick, the legislature had to withhold a tasty carrot from these charter cities. To discourage them from using their constitutionally-granted local authority over municipal contracting as a basis for prohibiting Project Labor Agreements, Senate Bill 922 creates a financial disincentive by cutting off state funding for construction projects in charter cities that enact charter amendments or ordinances prohibiting contracts that mandate contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements.

And charter cities that already have these policies will NOT be exempted with a “grandfather” clause. In the three charter cities (Fresno, Chula Vista, and Oceanside) where voters or city councils had already enacted policies prohibiting city contracts that mandate Project Labor Agreements, the city councils or voters would need to repeal the policies by January 1, 2015 or lose state funding for future construction projects.

See “Brown Tries to Stop Ban on PLAs: Signs Law Supporting Union Contracts” – FOX News Channel – October 7, 2011

Senate Bill 922 Was Somewhat Effective in Stopping Policies to Guarantee Fair and Open Competition

When it become law, Senate Bill 922 had an immediate impact on local policy initiatives to ensure fair and open bid competition for government construction contracts.

The new law nullified a Fair and Open Competition charter provision approved in November 2010 by 76% of San Diego County voters – a provision that was previously established as an ordinance through a 5-0 vote of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in March 2010. It also nullified a Fair and Open Competition ordinance approved on a 5-0 vote of the Orange County Board of Supervisors in November 2009 and a Fair and Open Competition ordinance approved on a 5-0 vote of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors in July 2011.

Plans under the “20 in 2010” and “21 in 2011” strategies of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California for more county Fair and Open Competition ordinances were abandoned. Under my direction as project manager, the executive committee for the “Fair and Open Competition – Sacramento” campaign abandoned its signature collection from Sacramento County voters on petitions to place a charter amendment on the ballot in 2012 so voters could prohibit their county government from entering into Project Labor Agreements. Senate Bill 922 had made the effort moot.

With its allies in the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction and the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA), ABC of California and its affiliated chapters had also been lobbying for Fair and Open Competition ordinances at a dozen additional counties with significant populations and at several other local governments. We had also been developing strategies for voters to approve Fair and Open Competition ballot measures for three specific Northern California local governments where unions controlled a majority of the elected officials.

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California had reason to gloat about undermining these efforts. But soon it was obvious that the unions had not hurt the charter cities hard enough.

Round Two: Unions Need the California Legislature and Governor Brown to Enact Yet Another Law

In December 2011, the “Fair and Open Competition – Sacramento” campaign, under my direction as project manager, submitted nine boxes of petitions signed by voters to place a charter amendment on the ballot in 2012 so voters in the City of Sacramento could prohibit their city government from entering into contracts that mandated Project Labor Agreements. Unions and their political allies got a break when the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters subsequently determined that our signature validity rate was too poor to qualify the Fair and Open Competition charter amendment for the ballot. An ambitious plan to protect the Merit Shop philosophy went awry, and the California State Building and Construction Trades Council had reason to gloat again, this time claiming it was “nothing short of a complete disaster for the ABC” and “a completely disastrous outcome for their enemies at ABC.”

Not all was lost for the beleaguered advocates of economic freedom, even as my seven-year tenure as ABC of California’s State Government Affairs Director came to an end. Voters qualified a ballot measure (Proposition A) for the June 2012 ballot that would prohibit the City of San Diego from entering into contracts that required construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements. It was the first initiative qualified by City of San Diego voters to appear on the city ballot since 1998.

The city councils of Escondido, El Cajon, and Costa Mesa proceeded with proposed charters that would allow voters to ensure fair and open competition for city construction contracts. Californians obviously still seek the best quality construction at the best price: an unacceptable option for union leaders, whose mission is always to obtain a union monopoly on construction.

The Democrat majority in the legislature needed to do something for the unions, and fast!

On February 23, State Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) amended Senate Bill 829 in a new attempt to eliminate any possible ambiguity concerning the financial punishment of charter cities where voters or elected officials dare to prohibit city contracts from including mandates for construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. Perhaps not since consideration of Assembly Bill 60 (placing the eight-hour day in statute) in 1999 has the stated motivation for a bill been so brazen in its attack on specific business groups. Here’s an excerpt from the March 12, 2012 bill analysis for the Assembly Business, Professions, and Consumer Protection Committee:

Purpose of this bill. According to the author, “This bill is necessary because anti-union groups/associations continue their campaign to eliminate the option for local governments to utilize PLAs…These are mainly political attacks because PLAs are negotiated on a project-by-project or funding source (i.e., bond) basis and PLAs are not mandated under any state laws. Anti-PLA/union lobbyists, mainly the Associated Builders and Contractors, pushed bans in a few counties (Stanislaus, Orange, San Diego) and Charter Cities (Chula Vista and Oceanside) based on intense lobbying and campaigns waged by non-union contractor organizations that voluntarily choose not to bid on projects governed by a PLA.

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California is thrilled to see this bill sailing through the legislature despite resistance again from a coalition of construction associations, taxpayer groups, local elected officials, and local government organizations similar to the one that opposed Senate Bill 922 in 2011. Nevertheless, opposition to the bill continues. Here is the written statement of Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) on the Assembly floor in opposition to Senate Bill 829:

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove Blasts Unconstitutional Attempt to Limit Local Control – April 12, 2012

Here is the video of her floor statement:

Shannon Grove Blasts SB 829 as Unconstitutional Attempt to Limit Local Control – April 12, 2012