Last week, Jan. 22, Carrie Broggie, Mayor Pro Tem represented the city of Fillmore in Sacramento at the League of California Cities’ first policy committee meetings in 2016. Broggie serves on the Public Safety Committee, which is integral to the League’s policy-making process.

“My city benefits from the League’s policy committees because we are able to weigh in on issues that will affect our budgets and shape future policies. Without these meetings our influence on the state’s decisions would be greatly diminished,” said Carrie Broggie.

Commander Chris Dunn, Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spoke on the urgent need for stricter regulations on drones. Chief Pat McElroy, Santa Barbara Fire Department discussed the public safety impacts of the misrouting of 911 calls. Also, there were discussions on local control of medical marijuana, dispensaries and growing marijuana for medicinal use and planning for the likelihood that the recreational use of marijuana will become legal if it is on the ballot in November.

“These meetings provide an opportunity for city officials to learn about statewide proposals affecting California cities and have their voices heard by the League and translated into direct advocacy efforts,” said League Executive Director Chris McKenzie.

There are eight standing League policy committees including Administrative Services, Community Services, Employee Relations, Environmental Quality, Housing, Community and Economic Development, Public Safety, Revenue and Taxation, and Transportation, Communications, and Public Works. These committees evaluate proposed legislation as it related to existing policy and make recommendations for legislation where the League currently does not have policy.

The League's policy-making process allows the issues facing California cities to be debated and the organization's policy directions to be established. Close to 400 city officials serve on the League's policy committees and add their collective expertise, wisdom and opinions to the policy debate that is the foundation of League policy. The recommendations from the policy committee are forwarded to the League board of directors.
Following the January meetings in Sacramento, the League’s policy committees will meet April 7-8 in San Diego, June 2-3 in Sacramento and in October during the League’s annual conference in Long Beach as needed.

For more information on the League’s policy development process please visit its website at www.cacities.org/polcomm

Established in 1898, the League of California Cities is a nonprofit statewide association that advocates for cities with the state and federal governments and provides education and training services to elected and appointed city officials.

 


 

Sacramento - Governor Brown has signed legislation sponsored by Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner that, after nearly two decades, provides a regulatory framework for California's medical marijuana industry. The legislation (SB 643, AB 266, and AB 243) will go into effect beginning January 1, 2016.

"This regulatory package provides much-needed state oversight of the medical marijuana industry while recognizing that every California community is different," said Runner. "The new laws will help improve public safety and bring about greater tax compliance."

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, also known as the "Compassionate Use Act," making California the first state to legalize medical marijuana. However, during the nearly two decades that followed, all prior legislative attempts to regulate the medical marijuana industry failed.

"I'm pleased the governor realized the need for this important legislation," added Runner. "This regulatory structure is long overdue."

SB 643 was authored by Senator McGuire, AB 266 by Assemblymembers Bonta, Cooley, Jones-Sawyer, Lackey and Wood, and AB 243 by Assemblymember Wood.

George Runner represents more than nine million Californians as an elected member and Vice Chair of the State Board of Equalization. For more information, visit www.boe.ca.gov/Runner.

 


 

Sacramento - Governor Brown has signed legislation sponsored by Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner that, after nearly two decades, provides a regulatory framework for California's medical marijuana industry. The legislation (SB 643, AB 266, and AB 243) will go into effect beginning January 1, 2016.

"This regulatory package provides much-needed state oversight of the medical marijuana industry while recognizing that every California community is different," said Runner. "The new laws will help improve public safety and bring about greater tax compliance."

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, also known as the "Compassionate Use Act," making California the first state to legalize medical marijuana. However, during the nearly two decades that followed, all prior legislative attempts to regulate the medical marijuana industry failed.

"I'm pleased the governor realized the need for this important legislation," added Runner. "This regulatory structure is long overdue."

SB 643 was authored by Senator McGuire, AB 266 by Assemblymembers Bonta, Cooley, Jones-Sawyer, Lackey and Wood, and AB 243 by Assemblymember Wood.

George Runner represents more than nine million Californians as an elected member and Vice Chair of the State Board of Equalization. For more information, visit www.boe.ca.gov/Runner.

 


 
Protects Children in Day Care

The State Assembly today approved SB 792 authored by Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) on a bipartisan vote. The bill will protect California children in day care from contracting serious diseases by requiring family day care home and day care center workers and volunteers to be vaccinated against measles, pertussis, and influenza. The bill now goes back to the State Senate for a concurrence vote and then to Governor Brown for consideration.

“I am very pleased SB 792 was approved today with overwhelming bipartisan support by the State Assembly,” said Senator Tony Mendoza.

“With the deadly outbreaks of measles and influenza this year, we must do everything in our power to protect California’s children who spend time in day care. One child’s death is one too many, especially when it may be preventable,” added Mendoza.

As recently as the year 2000, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had declared that measles was eliminated (absence of continuous disease transmission for greater than 12 months) from the United States. This was made possible due to a highly effective vaccination program and better measles control.

However, from December 28, 2014 to April 10, 2015, there have been 134 confirmed cases of measles in California according to the California Department of Public Health. The outbreak likely originated from a traveler who became infected overseas with measles and visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California while contagious. Additional cases emerged, including a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) passenger with measles who travelled from Millbrae to San Francisco, potentially exposing more than 1500 riders. For influenza, in 2013-2014, there were 404 confirmed deaths, including ten pediatric deaths of which three were under the age of five.

“Disease outbreaks of measles, once thought to have been eradicated in the United States, have resurfaced. As a consequence, public health officials have been sounding the alarm that more should be done to protect the most vulnerable populations such as children and seniors,” said Senator Mendoza.

SB 792 protects young, vulnerable children by requiring caregivers at day care centers and family day care homes to be immunized against influenza, pertussis, and measles. Currently, there are no immunization requirements for day care workers. The bill allows for circumstances under which a person would be exempt from the immunization requirement, based on medical safety, current immunity or declining the influenza vaccination.

“My bill will require all day care center and family day care home personnel to be vaccinated. This is not just a common sense solution, but makes scientific sense,” added Senator Mendoza.

“The health officers want to thank Senator Mendoza for authoring this groundbreaking bill. It will help protect our most vulnerable citizens – infants and small children – from life-threatening communicable diseases, some of whom are too young to be vaccinated,” said Kat DeBurgh, MPH, Executive Director of the Health Officers Association of California, the sponsors of the bill.

Children in day care settings have close, intimate contact with each other and with the staff who work there. Until they are fully vaccinated, children rely on those around them to maintain their immunizations to stop the spread of disease. Many of these children are too young to be fully immunized against potentially serious communicable diseases. Children are vaccinated against diseases according to a schedule determined by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

According to this schedule, children are immunized against measles at age 12 months and receive the first dose of vaccine against pertussis (whooping cough) at age two months, which takes multiple doses for immunity to be fully effective. Children may also receive the annual flu vaccine at six months of age. Some diseases, such as the flu, may cause only a relative inconvenience to most healthy adults. However, this same disease can require hospitalization and perhaps even be fatal for an infant or an individual with a suppressed immune system.

“Children under the age of five are one of the most vulnerable age groups for contracting infection and developing complications from these very serious diseases, so it is critical that we use all available methods to protect them,” said Senator Mendoza.

Senator Tony Mendoza, a Los Angeles native and former elementary school teacher in East Los Angeles, represents the 32nd Senate District encompassing portions of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. For more information about Senator Mendoza visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

MISSION STATEMENT
"To help our constituents and our community through courteous, friendly, non-judgmental service and to help educate and lead the next generation of leaders."

 


 

California lawmakers are finally considering legislation to regulate medical marijuana, which has been legal under state law for nearly two decades. Among the proposals is a bill calling for an excise tax on marijuana that could raise nearly $60 million in revenue each year.

As a fiscal conservative and opponent of recreational marijuana, I’m an unlikely voice in the cannabis tax policy debate. Yet after speaking with parties on all sides of the issue, I’m convinced an excise tax on medical marijuana could make sense, and if done correctly, would help ensure California taxpayers are treated fairly.

I’m the first to admit that government is too bloated and that Californians are overtaxed. But the fundamental question here is who should pay the steep costs of marijuana-related activities that include trespass on public lands, water theft and unregulated use of pesticides.

Simply put: Why should those who don’t use marijuana pay the environmental costs associated with growing marijuana?

More funding is needed. Law enforcement officials are urging California to bolster its efforts to address the unintended consequences of legalizing marijuana for medical use at the state level. The rampant spread of unregulated marijuana grows have stretched local law enforcement thin in many communities around the state.

An excise tax on marijuana would provide local law enforcement with the revenue needed to combat these crimes. Local governments would be better able to respond to complaints related to cannabis grown and sold in their communities.

Revenue collected from a marijuana excise tax should not go to the state’s general fund—where lawmakers can spend those dollars on their pet projects. The revenue should be placed in a special fund where monies would be protected and only spent to combat marijuana-related crime, corruption and environmental damage.

While curbing crime is a worthy goal, lawmakers shouldn’t overreach. Setting the tax too high could backfire by harming industry participants willing to play by the rules. An unreasonable tax rate would cause an increase in the marijuana black market and drive the industry further underground.

As an elected tax official, it’s my job to make sure taxpayers are treated fairly. An excise tax on medical marijuana would ensure the medical marijuana industry and its end users—rather than ordinary California taxpayers—pay the costs of combating marijuana-related crimes.

Medical marijuana is already subject to sales tax—that’s been a settled issue for quite some time. Excise taxes are imposed on a specific good, typically at the wholesale or distributor level. The Board of Equalization currently collects excise taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco products, but not on marijuana.

Some might resist the call for a new tax, and normally I’d be with them. However, we as a society have agreed that certain shared priorities like police, schools and roads should be a government priority. Taxes provide funding for these shared priorities.

The question is who should pay for needed enforcement efforts? I think the cannabis industry and its users should, not California taxpayers who don’t use marijuana.

George Runner represents more than nine million Californians as a taxpayer advocate and elected member of the State Board of Equalization where he serves as Vice Chair. For more information, visit boe.ca.gov/Runner.

 


 
As seen in the Fresno Bee, Redding Record Searchlight and The Desert Independent

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but something is rotten with road funding in California.

Sacramento is flush with billions in unanticipated revenue. Yet a record $115 billion budget spending plan signed by Gov. Jerry Brown shortchanges the state's transportation and infrastructure needs. The only real funding boost goes to high-speed rail.

Budgets reflect priorities, and this shows that fixing roads is not a priority to Democratic legislators. Instead of fixing deteriorating freeways, some liberal lawmakers still hope Californians will give up their cars and ride mass transit.

But tax-and-spend politicians sense an opportunity. By starving road maintenance budgets, they hope to create public pressure for tax increases. Rather than curb wasteful spending, they want to have their cake and eat it, too.

Call it the "pothole strategy." It's similar to when the federal government closes the Washington Monument or school districts force teachers to buy their supplies. These highly visible actions appeal to people's emotions and can generate public support for higher taxes.

I hope Californians will not fall for this trick.

The governor's recent call for a special session of the Legislature on road funding provides an opportunity for lawmakers to push for higher road taxes. And Brown has now indicated that his promise to require a public vote on new taxes was for his first term only.

It will only take a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and the governor's signature to raise your taxes.
Already this year, Democratic lawmakers have proposed new road-user charges and higher gas taxes aimed at generating billions in new revenue.

What's particularly frustrating about these efforts is that Californians are paying more gas taxes this year. California's mysterious cap-and-trade auction on carbon emissions is bringing in billions in new revenue.

Since Jan. 1, much of this funding comes courtesy of California motorists who pay a new "hidden gas tax" on tailpipe emissions. It's called a "hidden tax" because no one seems to know how much it actually is, though most experts seem to agree it's at least 10 cents a gallon.

So far, not a dime of the money collected has been used to improve our roads. Rather policymakers are directing billions to pet projects, like high-speed rail, and favored constituencies.

Due to high taxes, unique regulations and limited refining capacity, California gas prices are higher than nearly all other states. California's gas prices this year have at times exceeded the national average by more than a dollar per gallon!

Over a 10-year period leading up to 2014, sales and excise tax revenues from fuel sales grew by nearly 35% - from $6.5 billion to a record $8.7 billion. Due to a complicated formula the Legislature enacted five years ago, Californians have been overpaying tax. That's why my colleagues and I on the Board of Equalization lowered the gas tax by 6 cents per gallon as of July 1.

If you hear complaints about transportation funding cuts resulting from this rate cut, keep in mind that local governments essentially received their funding sooner than they would have otherwise. It's like a payday advance. When you get paid early, you shouldn't complain about not getting a second paycheck on the regular payday. Neither should government.

Instead of raising taxes, lawmakers ought to use the upcoming special session on roads to:
• Identify and eliminate bureaucratic waste and mismanagement that drives up the cost of transportation projects.
• Close loopholes that allow diversion of transportation dollars. Prioritize spending to ensure funding for highways, roads and other vital infrastructure needs.
• Direct cap-and-trade revenues to fighting emission-causing traffic congestion and gridlock by expanding roads and building new ones.
• Repeal the confusing "gas tax swap" and restore a fuel tax system that is clear and easy for the public to understand at the pump.
• Direct the California Transportation Commission's Road Charge Pilot Program to consider only revenue-neutral alternatives to the gas tax system.

If, after taking these actions, the governor and Legislature remain convinced of the need for higher tax to fund roads, they should put forward their best plan and let voters decide. Giving the public a chance to weigh in on the issue, however, doesn't let lawmakers off the hook who got us into this situation by grossly mismanaging taxpayer dollars.

George Runner represents more than nine million Californians as a taxpayer advocate and elected member of the State Board of Equalization where he serves as Vice Chair. For more information, visit boe.ca.gov/Runner.

 

There’s been no shortage of attempts in recent years in the State Legislature to overhaul Proposition 13—California’s landmark initiative protecting homeowners and small business owners from out of control property taxes.

Multiple bills have taken aim at the proposition, but the most popular among these bills pushes the so-called “split roll” property tax, which would eliminate Prop. 13 protections for job creators but leave them in place for homeowners. This split roll idea is especially favored by lawmakers who are eager to bring more money into state coffers.

Given that California has the highest poverty rate in the nation, it seems a bit out of touch, if not downright greedy, for lawmakers to focus on funding government instead of making sure there are economic opportunities for everyone.

A recent study from Pepperdine University shows that split roll would increase property taxes on businesses by an estimated $6 billion. But the same study also shows that split roll could trigger the loss of nearly 400,000 jobs and cost California’s economy a total of $71.8 billion in output within the first five years.

That $71.8 billion loss would cause some serious harm to our fragile economy. Companies seeking to grow and add new jobs need a stable tax base. Why re-impose such financial instability at such a volatile time for our state?

Supporters of split roll often point to the “lost revenue” they claim has been caused by Prop. 13. That’s a misleading argument. Yes, property taxes are a major source of state revenue, but Prop. 13 opponents won’t tell you that even with taxpayer protections, actual property tax revenue has grown steadily since voters approved Prop. 13 in 1978.

For the fiscal year of 2014-2015 property taxes accounted for $52 billion in revenue. That’s up from $34.2 billion for the fiscal year of 2004-2005. Prop. 13 is not starving government.
Opponents of Prop. 13 put too much focus on large corporations that maintain property in California. They say these corporations unduly benefit from Prop. 13’s protections. However, the simple truth of the matter is that if split roll were to pass, it’s the smaller businesses in your community that would be hit the hardest.

And despite public opinion polls that suggest there’s a willingness to tweak Prop.13, a recent PPIC poll shows support has dwindled for making changes to the law. Today, 50% percent of likely voters say they favor split roll taxes, while 44% say they oppose. That’s down from 60% of likely voters in 2012.

Let’s not forget the reason why Prop. 13 passed in the first place: In the 1970’s county governments up and down the state routinely raised property tax rates, in many cases forcing families, especially those on fixed incomes, out of their homes. Left with no other alternative, Californians overwhelmingly passed Prop 13.

There is a valid point to be made for closing a loophole related to Proposition 13. Today, a few bad actors purposefully manipulate the change of ownership paperwork when buying and selling properties in order to escape property tax reassessments. I’m open to closing that loophole, and so is the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

But there’s no reason to gut Prop. 13’s tax protections for homeowners and businesses alike, and usher in massive, job-killing property tax increases. It’s clear that most Californians agree.
The business owners and homeowners I hear from every day want, and deserve, stability and certainty in our tax code. Given their contributions to California’s economy, that’s the least we can do.

George Runner represents more than nine million Californians as a taxpayer advocate and elected member of the State Board of Equalization.

 

SACRAMENTO – Senator Sharon Runner (R-Antelope Valley) announced today she is authoring legislation that would make sex-offender residency restrictions more workable, while keeping the integrity of voter approved Jessica’s Law intact. Senate Bill 54 is designed to clarify any confusion caused by In Re Taylor, the recent decision of the California Supreme Court regarding CDCR’s enforcement of sex offenders in San Diego County.

“The residency restrictions in Jessica’s Law provide important protection and peace of mind for California’s families,” said Runner. “Unfortunately, the California Supreme Court decision does not provide county governments with the ability to protect these voter approved residency restrictions when possible and expedite relief when necessary.”

Specifically, SB 54 provides that the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of each county would have primary jurisdiction to consolidate and hear petitions challenging the 2000 foot residency restriction as laid out in Jessica’s Law. The Court would grant relief if it was established that there was a pervasive lack of compliant housing in the subject county.

SB 54 also clarifies how 2,000 feet should be measured and ensures that only violent sex offenders are subject to the restriction.

Runner authored voter-approved Jessica’s Law along with her husband, Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner, in 2006. In addition to mandatory residency restrictions for sex offenders, the comprehensive law increased penalties for the most egregious sex offenses and provides law enforcement with more tools to impede, apprehend and incarcerate sex offenders.

SB 54 will be heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

Elected in March 2015, Sharon Runner represents portions of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties as Senator for the 21st District. Her district includes the Antelope Valley, Victor Valley and portions of the Santa Clarita Valley. For more information, visit http://district21.cssrc.us/.

 

As a lifelong conservative, I’m no fan of government regulation. Even so, I’m convinced it’s time for California to aggressively regulate the medical marijuana industry.

I’ve spoken with concerned citizens, local government officials, rural law enforcement officers, federal officials, anti-drug crusaders and medical marijuana industry insiders.

I even visited the Emerald Triangle with fellow Board of Equalization (BOE) Member Fiona Ma. Our April tour showed how we can work with the industry to generate greater voluntary compliance with California law.

The current cash-based system is dangerous. Crime, corruption and tax evasion are far too common. Murder and armed robbery rates in California’s rural counties have skyrocketed as the cannabis industry has grown. The FBI and US Attorney are investigating and prosecuting local law enforcement officials at staggering rates for taking cash bribes.

These problems stem in part from ongoing conflict between state and federal laws. Nearly 19 years ago California voters approved Proposition 215, making medical marijuana legal under state law, even while it remained illegal under federal law.

Cannabis has become readily available to the seriously ill—and anyone who has an hour to visit a “doctor” to get a recommendation and a “215 card.” Freeway billboards advertise local dispensaries, while apps provide for doorstep delivery. During this time, federal raids and prosecutions have waxed and waned depending on the political climate in D.C.

There’s no state regulation, just a patchwork of local rules. True, the California Department of Public Health runs a voluntary identification card program for patients and caregivers, but it has no jurisdiction over retail dispensaries or the production industry.

A better structure would be what Californians voted for in 1996. Proposition 215 sought to “encourage the federal and state governments to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.”

State rules would help law enforcement distinguish the good actors from the bad, leading to improved public safety. Rules would help stem the tide of rural murders, armed robberies and public corruption, allowing for a more effective use of limited law enforcement dollars. Local governments would be able to better respond to complaints related to cannabis grown and sold in their communities.

One irony of the status quo is that tax evasion deprives governments of the funds it needs to enforce laws already on the books.

As an elected tax official, it’s my job to ensure the collection of taxes owed the state. Cash-based businesses are very difficult for BOE to audit, especially when we can’t get records of their wholesale transactions. It’s also a huge safety risk to have dispensaries pay their taxes by carrying duffle bags into state offices with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

A new BOE effort, the Cannabis Compliance Pilot Project, aims to determine the scope of noncompliance and develop strategies to address compliance barriers. A report is due in November.

We won’t solve this problem on our own.

The good news is state lawmakers appear ready to do their part. A recent bipartisan vote for Assembly Bill 266 is a sign that lawmakers see the need for a regulatory structure.

The federal government must also act. Under current federal law, it’s nearly impossible for those in the medical marijuana industry to have bank accounts.

Some fear that regulating the medical marijuana industry will pave the way for full legalization of recreational marijuana—I disagree. One can oppose recreational marijuana, as I do, while recognizing the reality of the current situation. To improve public safety and tax compliance, we need greater state structure and oversight.

George Runner represents more than nine million Californians as a taxpayer advocate and elected member of the State Board of Equalization.

 

Sacramento - Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner issued the following statement in response to the budget passed by Legislative Democrats today:

"I find it unbelievable that despite Governor Brown's calls for restraint, Legislative Democrats have crafted a budget that spends $2 billion more than what the governor proposed. This demonstrates that the majority party hasn't learned from past mistakes and is out of touch with what California taxpayers really want: value for their money."

George Runner represents more than nine million Californians as an elected member and Vice Chair of the State Board of Equalization. For more information, visit www.boe.ca.gov/Runner.

 

Written by George Runner and Fiona Ma

In early May, Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik unfairly criticized a State Board of Equalization-supported proposal to simplify property tax assessment of airline property in California. As elected Board members and former legislators, we write to set the record straight.

Senate Bill 661, authored by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), would centralize property tax assessment of commercial airline property, ending a confusing and complicated county-by-county system that has spawned years of legal disputes. It would reduce costs and improve efficiency for state and local government, making California more friendly to a sector that helps support a million jobs and generates $154 billion in economic activity in our state.

Although modest, these changes are common sense tax reforms that would bring California’s system in line with most other states that impose property tax on commercial aircraft.

It may be disappointing news for travelers who pay high airline ticket prices, but SB 661 won’t change what’s taxable and what isn’t. That’s already settled law. This measure simply changes who assesses the value of airline property.

Hiltzik charges the airline industry is “disingenuous” and really just after a big tax break. If that’s the case, they’re out of luck. The Board of Equalization doesn’t hand out tax breaks. We implement and uphold the laws passed by the Legislature, which includes the methodology for the assessment of commercial aircraft. If for some reason we didn’t, the courts would step in to ensure we do.

Good ideas are rarely adopted immediately, yet Hiltzik points to past legislative efforts as if to prove that further reforms are unnecessary. The truth is, centralized assessments were never rejected outright. Instead, a compromise resulted in the current “lead county” system that solved a few problems, but left others unresolved. In fact, two prior authors of legislation on this issue serve on the Board of Equalization and support SB 661.
If the airplane had been invented sooner, we suspect the Board would already have direct responsibility for assessing aircraft, given the industry’s similarities to railroads and utilities. It just makes sense.

Hiltzik’s most glaring omission may be his failure to acknowledge the Board of Equalization’s experience and expertise in property tax assessments and administration. Established in the 19th century to address property tax inequities among counties, the Board is charged with regulating county assessment practices, equalizing ratios, and assessing railroad and utility properties.

In fact, the Board wrote the regulations for the current system of aircraft property tax assessment and provides ongoing guidance and oversight of assessors regarding these matters. By law, the Board even specifies the time period when aircraft assessments will be measured. We’re no strangers to this issue.

Giving up aircraft assessments would lessen the burden on county assessors, many of whom are underfunded by years of budget cuts; and while the assessors and their hardworking staff do a wonderful job with limited resources, this is clearly an issue where state government is the more efficient and effective party to carry out these responsibilities.

We’re ready and willing to work with the Legislature to address the concerns raised by a handful of assessors and amplified by Hiltzik. But so far, legislators who have already considered their concerns have rejected them as unfounded, voting unanimously to move the bill forward.

California’s tax system is needlessly complicated and confusing for taxpayers large and small; and as Hiltzik’s column perhaps unintentionally reveals, the forces behind the status quo will vehemently oppose even the smallest, most common sense, bipartisan tax reforms.

Making life simpler for taxpayers and business owners should be a goal we continually work on, and SB 661 is a perfect example of a modest reform that will have a positive impact.

George Runner and Fiona Ma serve as elected members of the State Board of Equalization. For more information, visit boe.ca.gov.

 

Sacramento - George Runner today issued the following statement in response to the Governor's revised budget proposal:

"The Governor is right to recognize that much of the money currently pouring into Sacramento is one-time dollars. Whether the Legislature will show similar spending restraint is an open question.

"One thing is clear: given the current revenue windfall, tax increases are off the table. Instead of proposing tax hikes, the Legislature should spend its time ensuring taxpayers receive value for their money.

"There's no question government is doing well. We now need to make sure the people who fund government with their hard-earned dollars have a chance to prosper too."

George Runner represents more than nine million Californians as an elected member and Vice Chair of the State Board of Equalization. For more information, visit www.boe.ca.gov/Runner.

 
Senator George Runner
Senator George Runner
Serving the 17th District which incorporates portions of the Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura and Kern counties.

The last thing overtaxed Californians need is another tax. Yet the Legislature continues to churn out new taxes that, once enacted, rarely go away.

Our economy has been transitioning to a greater reliance on services.As a result, some tax reform groupshave argued for expanding the sales tax to includeservices. On its own, a sales tax on services—like Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Bob Hertzberg—is a terrible idea. It would impose a massive, complicated tax increase on both businesses and consumers. In fact, a recent study found that fully taxing all services would cost California taxpayers as much as $123 billion moreeach year.

But what if shifting to a greater reliance on “consumption” taxes, like the sales tax, allowed us to eliminate taxes that destroy jobs, like the income tax? What if we didn’t raise taxes, but instead shifted them, replacing income taxwith an expanded sales tax—and abolished the Franchise Tax Board?

It might be difficult to imagine a California without an income tax, since most of us weren’t aliveduring the Great Depression, when California first started collecting it. However, seven U.S. statesseem to be doing just fine without an income tax. And by several key measures, they’redoing far better than California.

According to financial publisher Bankrate, six of the seven states with no income tax—Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming—are all considered better retirement destinations than California. (The exception being Alaska, for obvious,climate-related reasons.)

Retirees who have invested their lives in our state shouldn’t be forced to move away from their kids and grandkids for financial reasons. Yet the Manhattan Institutecites retirement-related moves as a key ingredient in the “The Great California Exodus” of more than 3.4 million residents since 1990.

Another vital measure is poverty. California’s so-called “progressive” income tax has done little to improve the plight of the poor. In fact, based on data from the Census Bureau, California has the nation’s highest poverty rate when other cost-of-living factors, such as taxes, are considered.

The reason is simple. California’s punitive income tax ratesdrive away the very jobs and investment that help low-income workers move up the economic ladder. According to the Tax Foundation,some small employers in our state face combined top marginal tax rates exceeding 50%.

Thedramatic ups and downs of California’s income tax createconditions ripe for new and higher taxes.Good tax policy is rarely formed in moments of crisis.Steepdeclines in income tax revenue led toProposition 30, which increased both sales and income tax. Those drops also gave us the lumber tax and a controversial fire prevention fee.Tax increases, even when sold as temporary, rarely go away after the state’s rollercoaster revenues rebound.

If California joined the growing number of states consideringelimination of theirstate income tax, it mightincrease pressure to get rid of the federal income tax.A movement in favor of what is known as the “FairTax” seeks to repeal the 16th Amendment and replace federal income tax with a national sales tax. Sure, it’s a long-shot, but who wouldn’t be glad to get rid of the Internal Revenue Service?

A common objection to replacing the income tax with a consumption tax is that, unlike income tax, sales taxes are regressive—hitting lower incomepeople the hardest. This objection can be answered in several ways. For instance, some economists have suggested making thesales tax “progressive” by excluding more basic necessities or providing a rebate for seniors and others with lower incomes.

If we eliminate the income tax, most workers would immediately experience an overnight increase in take-home pay. True, service-oriented businesses would have to collect and pay sales tax, but they’d also no longer be paying state income tax.

What’s needed now is a serious study of the options before us. Which revenue neutral tax changes would improve California’s economic competitiveness? Which changes would raise incomes, grow jobs and keep more retirees in our state? Which changes would produce the most stable revenue and spur the most growth?

Since taxes affect behavior, dynamic economic modeling would provide answers to these key questions. Butfirst, California’s leaders need to muster the courage to ask the questions.

George Runner represents more than nine million Californians asVice Chair of the State Board of Equalization. For more information, visit boe.ca.gov/Runner.

 

Sacramento - Legislation sponsored by Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner advanced in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee today. SB 526 (Fuller) would give the Franchise Tax Board authority to honor legal divorce agreements regarding payment of taxes when determining if one spouse can be relieved of a joint tax liability.

"If two parties reach a court-approved agreement that they believe has fairly divided assets and debts, then a tax agency should respect that agreement," said Runner. "Telling taxpayers that they must go back to court in order to enforce a divorce agreement is inefficient government. This must be changed."

Currently, most of the income tax appeals to reach the Board of Equalization that include a divorce settlement agreement involve women who believe they were protected from tax liability, but discover their only recourse to enforce the agreement is to go back to court or pay the tax. SB 526 will assist in easing the financial burden of divorced women who should have no legal obligation to pay the tax, as stipulated by their divorce agreement.

"Divorce can be difficult enough without the addition of more court filings and paperwork to work out a tax liability decision already agreed upon by both parties," said Senator Jean Fuller. "SB 526 will provide the FTB with the flexibility to consider the divorce agreement when making a liability ruling therefor reducing the need for additional expenses to the impacted party."

SB 526 is also supported by Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma.

George Runner represents more than nine million Californians as an elected member and Vice Chair of the State Board of Equalization. For more information, visit www.boe.ca.gov/Runner.

 

SACRAMENTO – Senator Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster) has called upon the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to provide insight into its decision to terminate enforcement of the uniform sex offender residency restrictions under Jessica’s Law.

“I was alarmed by CDCR’s sweeping decision to stop enforcing the people’s will as expressed in Jessica’s Law,” said Runner. “The residency restrictions in Jessica’s Law provide important peace of mind for California’s families.”

Runner specifically demanded the release of an unpublished opinion from Attorney General Harris used by CDCR to justify the policy change.

In a letter to CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard, Runner writes: “The public, the press and the Legislature have a right to a transparent explanation of the Department’s position. For the sake of transparency, it is imperative that you release the opinion of the Attorney General without delay!”

Runner is also working on legislation that will clarify any confusion caused by the decision of the California Supreme Court regarding CDCR’s enforcement of sex offenders in San Diego County. Currently she is working on building a coalition of support for a legislative remedy that keeps the integrity of Jessica’s Law intact.

“As an author of Jessica’s Law, I continue to stand behind the package of reforms that have made California’s communities safer,” said Runner.

Runner authored voter-approved Jessica’s Law along with her husbad, Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner, in 2006. In addition to mandatory residency restrictions for sex offenders, the law includes many important public safety reforms such as strengthened sexually violent predator laws and increased parole terms. The California Supreme Court’s decision in early March and the recent CDCR policy change only relates to the residency requirements in Jessica’s Law.

Elected in March 2015, Sharon Runner represents portions of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties as Senator for the 21st District. Her district includes the Antelope Valley, Victor Valley and portions of the Santa Clarita Valley. For more information, visit http://district21.cssrc.us/.

FULL TEXT OF RUNNER LETTER

April 6, 2015

Dr. Jeffrey Beard, Secretary
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
1515 S Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

RE: Enforcement of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions

Dear Secretary Beard,

It was with alarm that I learned of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Division of Adult Parole Operations’ decision to terminate enforcement of the uniform sex offender residency restrictions in all of California’s 58 counties. The voter-approved prohibition precludes paroled sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children play. The Department has justified its abrupt change in policy by referencing a recent San Diego-specific decision of the California Supreme Court. According to CDCR’ s press release, Attorney General Harris has advised the Department that the California Supreme Court will ultimately decide the residency restriction is unconstitutional statewide. A charitable interpretation of the release would lead one to conclude that CDCR has confused the opinion of the Attorney General with the opinion of the California Supreme Court.

The Rule of Law

The law that your Department seeks to preemptively repeal was approved by the more than 70% of California voters who supported Jessica’s Law (Proposition 83, 2006). Proposition 83 enjoyed the support of then-Attorney General Brown.

While it is a matter of record that your Department has recommended the repeal of the 2,000 feet restriction, it must be clear to you that the authority to do so cannot be found in an unpublished opinion from Attorney General Harris. It is indeed extraordinary that the Department has rebuffed requests for release of the opinion by asserting attorney-client privilege. To restate the obvious: the public, the press and the Legislature have a right to a transparent explanation of the Department’s position.

For the sake of transparency, it is imperative that you release the opinion of the Attorney General without delay!

Amending a Voter Initiative

Most Californians believe in rehabilitation and redemption but few would advocate allowing sex offenders to reside across the street from a school or park where children play. For these reasons, voters embraced Jessica’s Law and the provision that precludes sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. It is the task of state government to implement the will of the voters to the extent possible. When it is necessary to amend laws approved by the people the procedures are clear. Unilateral action by your Department usurps the authority of the voters, the Legislature and the Supreme Court. Please rethink your position and confer with the Legislature before implementing changes to Jessica’s Law.

Sincerely,

Sharon Runner
Senator, 21st District

 

SACRAMENTO – Jessica’s Law authors George and Sharon Runner today responded to a decision by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to stop enforcing Jessica’s Law residency restrictions statewide:

“We’re disappointed by the Corrections Department’s sweeping decision to stop enforcing the people’s will as expressed in Jessica’s Law.

“The residency restrictions in Jessica’s Law help keep our neighborhoods and children safe and provide important piece of mind for California’s families.

“Jerry Brown supported Jessica’s Law when he was Attorney General. It’s disappointing that his administration would go so far beyond what the court required.

“We intend to reintroduce our legislation granting discretion to local governments in these matters. We urge the Legislature to act on it immediately to protect the safety of California’s kids.

“In the meantime, we encourage CDCR to use good judgment in placing parolees.”

Knowing sex offenders might challenge Jessica’s Law, George Runner introduced Senate Bill 54 in 2010 to give local governments increased flexibility regarding residency requirements. Senator Sharon Runner took authorship of the bill in 2011. It was subsequently killed by the Legislature. The California Supreme Court decision does not provide local governments the flexibility to craft a more appropriate alternative for their communities.

Runner and his wife, Senator Sharon Runner, are the authors of the voter-approved Proposition 83, otherwise known as Jessica’s Law. In addition to mandatory residency restrictions for sex offenders, the law includes many important public safety reforms such as strengthened sexually violent predator laws and increased parole terms. The California Supreme Court’s decision in early March only relates to the residency requirements in Jessica’s Law.

Both George and Sharon Runner continue to stand behind the package of reforms that have made California’s communities safer and are opposed to any efforts to undermine them.

George and Sharon Runner are the first husband and wife in California history to have served concurrently in the Legislature. George serves as Vice Chair of the State Board of Equalization. Sharon represents the 21st District in the California State Senate.

 

CAMARILLO, CA – City and county government officials from throughout Ventura County and a land-use consultant recently joined the board of directors of the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. The new members include Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, Camarillo Vice Mayor Mike Morgan, Santa Paula Mayor John Procter, Ojai Councilmember William Weirick, Thousand Oaks Mayor Al Adam and Sandy Smith of Sespe Consulting, representing the Ventura County Economic Development Association (VCEDA). Each new member brings a wealth of business and leadership experience to the board, which includes representatives from private-sector businesses, the county and each of its 10 cities. This ensures every sector and community has a voice in EDC-VC’s growing list of programs and services.

As board members, the six will help guide the organization and ensure it follows its goals and objectives for promoting jobs and economic growth to maintain the county’s economic strength through key programs and services.

“Each of the leaders joining our board possesses a deep understanding of local government and the business community, fostering insights on how we can strengthen our public-private partnerships for the benefit of the region’s businesses,” said Bruce Stenslie, president/CEO of EDC-VC.

Parks has been a member of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors since 2003. She previously served as a planning commissioner, city councilmember and mayor for the city of Thousand Oaks. As a supervisor, Parks continues championing quality-of-life issues. She holds a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Washington and sits on many local and regional boards and commissions.

Morgan has served as a Camarillo councilmember since 1980, with five terms as mayor. A founding member of the Camarillo Arts Festival and past board member of the American Cancer Society, Morgan currently serves on the finance/investment and policy committees, along with the Camarillo Ranch House committee. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California.

A lifelong Santa Paula resident, Procter was elected to the city council in 2014 and is serving his third term after a six year absence. A Stanford alumnus, Procter has been on several boards throughout the county. An active supporter of the American Cancer Society, he has been on the steering committee for the Santa Paula Relay for Life since its inception and serves as chair of the ACS Silicon Coastal Region.

A first-term Ojai councilmember, Weirick brings 20 years’ experience as an academic administrator and economics professor. For the past 15 years, he also has been part of the management team for a third-generation family business, managing a diversified portfolio of real estate assets in Southern California. Weirick served as the Ojai Building Appeals Board chair and supported community organizations, such as Ojai FLOW and the Ojai Valley Museum.

Currently serving as mayor for the city of Thousand Oaks, Adam has served on numerous boards and commissions during his 38 years as a Thousand Oaks resident, including chair of the YMCA and the Civic Arts Plaza. A managing director of investments for Wells Fargo Advisors, Adam is a founder of the Alliance for the Arts, chairman of the Ventura Council of Governments and an active member of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Smith is a former Ventura mayor and councilmember and a third-generation resident of Ventura County. Currently, he is employed as a land use consultant for Sespe Consulting, an engineering firm based in Ventura. An adjunct professor in the master’s degree program in public policy and administration at California Lutheran University, Smith teaches classes in urban planning and civic engagement. He also serves as chair of VCEDA’s board of directors.

EDC-VC is a private, nonprofit organization that serves as a business-to-government liaison to assist businesses in Ventura County by offering programs that enhance the economic vitality of the region. For more information about the Small Business Development Center and loan, manufacturing outreach and international trade programs, contact Bruce Stenslie at 805-384-1800 ext. 24, or bruce.stenslie@edc-vc.com. Or visit www.edc-vc.com.

 
Says True Tax Reform Would Lead to a Brighter California

SACRAMENTO – During a discussion at the 2015 Cal Tax Annual Members meeting, Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner called for a meaningful public discourse on tax reform ideas that makes life easier for taxpayers. Runner suggested replacing California’s income tax with a sales tax on services.

“If you want real tax reform, we ought to look at eliminating the state’s personal and corporate income tax,” said Runner. “One less tax agency would make California a far more attractive place for jobs, retirees and investment.”

Runner noted that if California eliminated income tax more companies would base themselves in California. Also, more residents would stay in the state upon retirement, leading to more revenue for the State of California.

Seven states do not have an income tax. Those states include Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

Runner said true tax reform makes tax systems simpler, rather than more complicated. He called Senate Bill 8 (Hertzberg), which would extend sales tax to services, a massive tax increase. In its current form the legislation would make California’s tax system more complicated and add thousands of state auditors and tax collectors to state payrolls.

“Any shift to a broader reliance on sales tax must be combined with real tax reform that removes barriers to doing business in our state,” added Runner. “Don’t be seduced by false reform that makes California’s tax code more complicated for everyone.”

Runner called for dynamic economic modeling of the likely benefits of an elimination of income tax and a shift to a consumption-based tax system. He encouraged businesses to conduct their own modeling to weigh the pros and cons of such a structure.

The annual meeting hosted by Cal Tax attracts taxpayers from many industries and gives the business community an opportunity to be updated on legislative affairs.

Elected in November 2010 and re-elected in 2014, George Runner represents more than nine million Californians as a member of the State Board of Equalization. For more information, visit www.boe.ca.gov/Runner.

 

The 2014-2015 Ventura County Grand Jury has released its first report of the current fiscal year, titled “Elections and Polling Place Observations.” Viewing and commenting on the county’s election procedures is regularly included in the government watchdog’s oversight duties.

On the last election day, Nov. 4, 2014, the grand jury monitored county polls by conducting unannounced observations of polling places and by observing the county clerk and recorder/registrar of voter’s central counting place in the county center. In preparation for their observations, 12 grand jurors attended the three-hour “Election Officer Training Course” presented by the county’s Elections Division.

Grand jury members used checksheets to record their observations of polling place conditions and poll worker performance. An analysis of these checksheets shows that the jurors rated most polling places as clean and in good repair, with acceptable lighting and noise levels, properly set-up voting booths, readily accessible voting materials and welcoming and knowledgeable poll workers. The grand jury found that variations from normal ballot procedures were understood and handled well by poll workers.

In its report, the grand jury recommends that the Elections Division reduce possible confusion by locating only one polling place in a single building. Where multiple precincts are located in a single polling place, the Elections Division should take steps to instruct poll workers to clearly separate the precincts and prevent votes from being cast in an incorrect precinct.

The report also recommends possible revisions to the Elections Division’s training, including increasing the length of the course, emphasizing the need for proper signage (particularly bilingual signage), and providing additional hands-on training in the setup and use of electronic voting machines.

The grand jury report commends the Elections Division for its hard work in training poll workers and for providing technical support on election day. The grand jury also commends poll workers for the long hours they spent ensuring that all county voters were afforded the opportunity to vote. Further commendations went to the county clerk and recorder/registrar of voters for his efforts to certify the election results well in advance of the date prescribed by California law.

The complete report may be accessed at http://www.ventura.org/grand-jury; click on the “Annual Reports” tab and consult “Fiscal Year 2014-2015.”

 

The 2014-2015 Ventura County Grand Jury has released its first report of the current fiscal year, titled “Elections and Polling Place Observations.” Viewing and commenting on the county’s election procedures is regularly included in the government watchdog’s oversight duties.

On the last election day, Nov. 4, 2014, the grand jury monitored county polls by conducting unannounced observations of polling places and by observing the county clerk and recorder/registrar of voter’s central counting place in the county center. In preparation for their observations, 12 grand jurors attended the three-hour “Election Officer Training Course” presented by the county’s Elections Division.

Grand jury members used checksheets to record their observations of polling place conditions and poll worker performance. An analysis of these checksheets shows that the jurors rated most polling places as clean and in good repair, with acceptable lighting and noise levels, properly set-up voting booths, readily accessible voting materials and welcoming and knowledgeable poll workers. The grand jury found that variations from normal ballot procedures were understood and handled well by poll workers.

In its report, the grand jury recommends that the Elections Division reduce possible confusion by locating only one polling place in a single building. Where multiple precincts are located in a single polling place, the Elections Division should take steps to instruct poll workers to clearly separate the precincts and prevent votes from being cast in an incorrect precinct.

The report also recommends possible revisions to the Elections Division’s training, including increasing the length of the course, emphasizing the need for proper signage (particularly bilingual signage), and providing additional hands-on training in the setup and use of electronic voting machines.

The grand jury report commends the Elections Division for its hard work in training poll workers and for providing technical support on election day. The grand jury also commends poll workers for the long hours they spent ensuring that all county voters were afforded the opportunity to vote. Further commendations went to the county clerk and recorder/registrar of voters for his efforts to certify the election results well in advance of the date prescribed by California law.

The complete report may be accessed at http://www.ventura.org/grand-jury; click on the “Annual Reports” tab and consult “Fiscal Year 2014-2015.”