Make America California?

California Governor Gavin Newsom is conducting what some are calling a “Make America California Tour.” Newsom believes that majorities of American voters, including 63 percent of Republicans, support California’s new law to fight “gas price gouging.” 

American voters might want to check out the details.

The enabling legislation, Senate Bill X1-2, creates a Division of Petroleum Market Oversight with subpoena power to investigate oil and gas companies and impose regulations and penalties. As the bill explains, “the division shall be led by a director, who is appointed by the governor,” and the entire panel consists of unelected bureaucrats. 

Voters across the country may be unaware that California already deploys an unelected body with vast and steadily expanding powers. The California Coastal Commission was established after the 1969 oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara. The CCC was supposed to be a temporary measure but under Governor Jerry Brown it became a permanent body. 

Led and staffed by environmentalist zealots, the commission overrides scores of elected city and county governments on land-use issues along the state coastline. On the watch of longtime director Peter Douglas, the CCC combined Stalinist regulation with mafia-style corruption. 

Back in the 1980s, commissioner Mark Nathanson solicited bribes from people seeking building permits. Nathanson demanded $25,000 from actor Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky”) who sought to add a swimming pool to his Malibu residence, and $200,000 from director Blake Edwards (“The Pink Panther”) for improvements on his home. 

Edwards and Stallone refused but others paid up. All told, Nathan solicited about $1 million in bribes. He was charged in 1993 with extortion and sentenced to nearly five years in prison. Courts sometimes had the temerity to rule against the CCC, so the commission lobbied for the power to levy fines directly. 

In 2019, the commission fined the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay $1.6 million for “failing to provide public access to its nearby beaches.” The hotel “failed to display signs informing the public that beaches are free and open to anyone.” So the $1.6 million fine was for what the Ritz-Carlton did not do, not for any actual “blocking” of beachgoers. 

Last year, the commission rejected a desalination plant that would have provided 50 million gallons of fresh water a day. “The ocean is under attack from climate change already,” proclaimed commissioner Dayna Bochco, president of Steven Bochco Productions, producer of shows such as “Doogie Kamealoha M.D.” and “Cop Rock.” Nobody voted for Bochco, or any other commissioner. 

Newsom’s new unelected division would invite CCC-style corruption and, as Katy Grimes of the California Globe explains, would “inevitably lead to gas shortages, rationing and price spikes.” While national voters think it over, there’s something they should know. There was a time when making America like California was a good idea. 

In 1978, state voters passed the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation, Proposition 13, on the June ballot. Under this measure, property could be taxed at no more than 1 percent of value, and could not grow by more than 2 percent per year unless the property was sold. The proposition also required a two-thirds vote of the legislature to increase non-property taxes. 

A full 54.79 percent of California voters approved the measure, which created no new state agencies, included no mandate for new state spending, and applied to all Californians, regardless of ethnicity. 

On November 4, 1986, California voters passed Proposition 63, the Official Language of California Amendment. This measure directs the state legislature to “preserve the role of English as the state’s common language” and refrain from “passing laws which diminish or ignore the role of English as the state’s common language.” 

A full 73.25 percent of California voters favored the measure, a boon to immigrants. A command of English is a key to success in the state’s job market. 

After the landmark 1978 Bakke case, California universities continued to reject qualified students and faculty on the basis of race. By the 1990s, Californians were ready for change. 

The California Civil Rights Initiative, Proposition 209 on the November 1996 ballot, barred racial and ethnic preferences in state education, employment and contracting. A full 54.45 percent of California voters approved the measure, which did not end “affirmative action,” only state-sponsored racial prejudice. The disaster that opponents predicted never occurred. 

As Thomas Sowell noted in his 2013 book Intellectuals and Race, declines in minority enrollment at UCLA and Berkeley were offset by increases at other University of California campuses. More importantly, the number of black and Hispanic students graduating from the UC system went up, including a 55 percent increase in those graduating in four years with a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Under the guise of bilingualism, California’s government schools were imposing native language instruction that harmed the prospects of immigrant students in higher education and the job market. In 1998, Proposition 227 required English as the language of instruction in public schools. California voters passed the measure 61.28 to 38.72 percent, a positive change for students and parents alike. 

California also allows voters to weigh in on justices of the state supreme court. Following confirmation, the judges are  “subject to voter approval at the next gubernatorial election, and thereafter at the conclusion of each term,” which is 12 years for the state supreme court. At the next gubernatorial election, “they run for retention of the remainder of the term, if any, of their predecessor.” 

Governor Jerry Brown’s choice for chief justice was Rose Bird, only 40 years old and without judicial experience. In 10 years as chief justice, Bird elevated her own views above the law. 

Californians came to believe that Bird favored criminals, particularly convicted murderers, more than their victims. 

On November 4, 1986, California voters ousted Bird by a margin of 67 to 33 percent, and also booted Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin, both Jerry Brown appointees. For further reading see “The Rise and Fall of Rose Bird,” by Patrick K. Brown. 

These landslide votes, people across the country should note, came before ballot harvesting,  provisional ballots, and before an imported electorate.

It is illegal for non-citizens to vote in U.S. elections but California automatically registers non-citizens to vote when they get a driver’s license. State officials won’t reveal how many non-citizens actually voted. If anybody thought California had institutionalized voter fraud it would be hard to blame them. 

Voters across the country might like the power to toss a U.S. Supreme Court or state justice, eliminate state-sponsored racism, and limit government’s ability to raise taxes. On the other hand, voters might not like another government bureaucracy like Newsom’s new gas politburo. That blatant expansion of state power is not the only reason that, in current conditions, America should not be like California. 

As the Golden Gate confirms, Californians are good at building bridges. For the new span of the Bay Bridge, however, California hired a Chinese company, Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries, and used Chinese steel. 

The bridge came in 10 years late, $5 billion over budget, and riddled with safety issues from brittle steel, cracked welds, corrosion and such. When he got word of the problems, recurring Governor Brown famously said, “I mean, look, shit happens.” 

It does indeed, even in California’s showcase city of San Francisco, where Newsom served as mayor from 2004 to 2011. In recent years, human excrement has been piling up, with special maps pointing out areas with the deepest accumulation. Homelessness, squalor, and crime are also on the rise. 

“Downtown SF looks like a zombie apocalypse,” noted Elon Musk on April 10. “People who’ve not been there have no idea.” 

People across the land, do not let this happen to your city, your state, and your country. 

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About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.

Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

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