California

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California Voters May Roll Back Gas Tax Hike

Thanks to a law signed by California Governor Jerry Brown in 2017, Californians are paying the second-highest gas tax rate in the nation. In November, voters will have a chance to roll that 2017 tax increase back. If they approve Proposition 6, they will also take decisions about future gas tax increases out of the hands of elected officials and put them into the hands of voters.

 

Proposition 6 is a reaction against a 2017 bill that raised the gas tax by twelve cents, increased the tax on diesel, and imposed other vehicle fees. The proposition would mandate that any fuel tax increase or vehicle fee increase must not only be approved by two-thirds of the legislature and the governor (the current requirement), but must also be approved by voters. It makes such approval retroactive to the beginning of 2017, thus effectively repealing that year’s tax and fee increases.

 

Supporters of Proposition 6 say that a gas tax hits poor Californians harder than those with more income. They point out that the revenue from the gas tax and vehicle fees is not earmarked for road improvement, but can be spent on things such as bike lanes. They say that voters, not politicians, should decide if such taxes and fees should be increased.

 

Those opposing Proposition 6 counter that it would deprive the state of billions of dollars needed to improve roads and rail projects. They argue that if people want better roads, then they need to pay higher taxes. They also say that there is nothing in the proposition that would guarantee that gas prices would drop.

 

Do you support higher gas taxes?

Judge Rules Funds Cannot Be Withheld from Sanctuary Cities

President Trump has made no secret of his dislike for cities and states that do not cooperate with the federal government on immigration law. One of his priorities once elected was finding a way to punish these governments. Now a federal judge has made it more difficult for him to cut off federal funding for these cities and states.

 

Sanctuary cities, or sanctuary states, are places where the local government has a policy forbidding local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. The federal government sets and enforces immigration laws, but it often works with local law enforcement on situations like when illegal immigrants are in local jails. Areas with sanctuary policies, however, adopt policies that do not allow local law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants for the federal government or cooperate with the federal government on immigration detainers.

 

These laws do not conflict with federal law, since they do not interfere with federal agents doing their duty. Instead, they limit local government agents’ cooperation with federal agents. The federal government cannot mandate that state or local agents enforce federal law.

 

In an attempt to discourage such policies, Attorney General Jeff Sessions mandated that some types of grants could not be disbursed to governments that did not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. California sued the federal government over these restrictions. Last week, a federal judge agreed that the restrictions were illegal.

 

Supporters of cutting some funding for sanctuary cities and states say that these policies endanger public safety. They contend that cities and states should cooperate with the federal government to enforce immigration law to keep criminal immigrants out of the U.S. Those opposing restrictions on federal funds for sanctuary cities and states argue that these restrictions could hamper law enforcement activity. They also point out that the restrictions were not enacted by Congress, so the Justice Department has no authority to unilaterally decide to put them in place.

 

The federal government is expected to appeal this decision.

 

Do you think that the federal government should cut some funding for sanctuary cities and sanctuary states?

Electric Car Subsidy May Be Boosted in California

 

Buying an electric car in California may soon get you a $4,500 subsidy from the state.

 

The California Air Resources Board is meeting this week to consider boosting the state rebate for purchasing an electric car from $2,500 to $4,500. This money comes from credits purchased by businesses in order to comply with the state’s cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

 

Currently the federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for electric car purchases. However, this subsidy is designed to decrease once the manufacturers of electric cars grow large enough to sell 200,000 cars per company. As the companies reach this threshold (Tesla has already done so), the tax credit decreases in increments.

 

Supporters of increasing the electric car subsidy say these zero-emission vehicles are essential to combatting climate change. They say that these companies need government help to gain a market foothold and compete with conventional vehicles. Those who oppose the subsidies say the government should not be picking winners and losers in the automotive marketplace. They contend that if people want to buy electric vehicles, they should do so without government assistance.

 

The electric car credit is only one issue being considered by the Air Resources Board. The board members may also require fewer carbon emissions by oil companies, bigger subsidies for electric-charging stations, and a requirement that some mass transit systems in the state must buy only hydrogen- or battery-powered buses by 2030.

 

Do you support subsidies for people who purchase electric vehicles?

California Won’t Be Dividing into Three States

 

California is the third-largest state in the U.S. Some residents think it is too big; they want it divided into three states. This proposal obtained enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, but the state Supreme Court removed it. This does not end the fight to divide California, but makes it more difficult for proponents to see their dream of two new states joining the union.

 

Under the Proposition 9, California would be split into California, Northern California, and Southern California. Tim Draper, a venture capitalist, proposed the idea and was the main backer of the initiative. He helped collect the necessary signatures to place it on the ballot, with over 460,000 valid signatures being submitted to the state.

 

That led to a court challenge on the grounds that this ballot initiative violated the state constitution’s ban on initiatives making a major change to the constitution. Draper argued that this would not be a change to the constitution but a nullification of it. The state Supreme Court did not agree with Draper, and pulled the measure from the ballot.

 

Those supporting this initiative say that breaking the state up would lead to more responsive government. They contend that California is too large and too diverse to be governed by one state government. They also note that this would lead to lead to six U.S. senators representing a population that has two senators currently. Opponents countered that there is power in being a large state. They also noted that there have been past efforts to divide the state that have never been popular with Californians.

 

The U.S. Constitution allows new states to be formed from existing states with the consent of the existing state’s legislature and the U.S. Congress. There is some question whether or not a ballot initiative can provide this consent instead of a legislature.

 

Draper, who previously supported a proposal to break California into six states, will continue pursuing this issue after the 2018 election.


Do you support splitting California into three states?

 

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