Friday, December 28, 2018




          Hotel, restaurant and farm losses have not yet been totted up, but probably measure in the millions of dollars. Grocery stores lost tons of frozen goods that spoiled. Some areas went without water. Patients with home dialysis machines, oxygen tanks and other equipment saw their lives endangered.

          These were just some consequences when California’s largest utility began what might be the state’s newest form of “blackout blackmail.” They came as Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in mid-October shut down power supplies to 59,000 business and residential customers across a wide swath of Northern California when weather and humidity created dry conditions the utility deemed likely to further the spread of wildfires.

          PG&E later also inconvenienced other customers in the name of fire prevention, but oddly enough did nothing near Paradise in Butte County, which was destroyed by the Camp Fire.

The shutdown tactic is something PG&E wishes it had used in 2017, when huge fires swept through the Wine County and other large areas. And when more fires struck near Lakeport and other forested areas last fall.

          The state’s other big privately-owned utilities, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, say they will employ the same tactic whenever they feel it is necessary. Like PG&E, they have been severely burned financially by raging wildfires.

          But to some affected customers, who saw winds during the October closure episode reach speeds no higher than 7 mph (during big fires, winds usually are many times higher), this looked more like revenge than fire prevention.

          “This is blatant terrorism,” complained a reader near Nevada City whose power was cut off by PG&E for more than a day at a time while conditions were dry, but winds low. “Their latest performance shows just how militant (PG&E) can be at the expense of the public.”

          Maybe he’s right and this is a form of blackmail. Until October, “blackout blackmail” was been largely confined to Southern California, where Sempra Energy and its Southern California Gas Co. subsidiary repeatedly used threats of summertime blackouts to convince authorities they should allow it to reopen the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility. An estimated 97,000 tons of methane gas escaped into the atmosphere from Aliso Canyon, just above the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles, over four months in 2015-16, and local residents remain unconvinced the causes of that leak have been fixed.

          The possible blackmail by PG&E looked different to its customers. Several readers speculated that the utility’s real message was that if some customers sue it for billions of dollars over damages CalFire says were caused by PG&E equipment and maintenance, many other customers will be made to suffer.

          A $10 million lobbying campaign by the utility last summer caused state legislators and former Gov. Jerry Brown to pass a new law giving the corporate-friendly state Public Utilities Commission the ability to dun all customers when a utility is found to have caused major fire damage. The PUC also will have customers pay for tree cutting and other fire prevention tactics now being carried out by utilities fearing a new onslaught of fire-damage lawsuits. Never mind that the companies’ long-term negligence caused many of the dangerous conditions they are now abating.

          The reasoning behind the new law was much the same as the justification for the Wall Street bailout that rescued large investment houses following their misdeeds in the Great Recession of 2008-10. The companies, elected officials essentially said, are too big to fail.

          They also now have carte blanche to cut off power for awhile to any area they like. For the PUC has set no standards governing when utilities should cut off power in potential fire areas. In October, conditions were dry and humidity low, but the winds needed for wildfires to spread never materialized. CalFire itself only asks utilities to cut off power when a fire is actually burning.

          What’s clearly needed are rules for the big electric companies to follow, both in maintaining their equipment and in cutting off power to prevent fires. Without rules, the utilities can do whatever they like. Past history shows they can’t be trusted when given that kind of freedom.   

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          There were a lot of lessons from the fall election campaign whose results only recently became completely final, including these: President Trump has no clout beyond his vocal base, women voters can swing control of one or both houses of Congress, unpopular taxes can survive even if they were enacted on just a narrow vote. 

           But one lesson that many Californians may have missed is that anti-vaccination advocates who believe disease-preventing inoculations can sometime cause autism and other ills will not go away soon. These folks would rather subject millions of other people to possible harm from once-feared scourges like measles, mumps, rubella, polio and whooping cough than give up the freedom to expose their own children to those diseases.

          They also find new ways to circumvent rules set up to protect the general populace and will go after any politician who’s interfered with their former right to “personal exemptions.”

          The persistence produced one of the fall’s least-reported but still interesting campaigns, a state Senate race in Sacramento. Running for reelection was Democrat Richard Pan, the state Legislature’s only pediatrician and the author of California’s 2015 law that ended personal exemptions.

          This law stopped parents’ right to claim even without proof that their religious beliefs forbade them from getting their school-age children vaccinated.

          After it passed, the vaccination rate among California public school kindergarteners rose from 90.4 percent in the 2014-15 school year to 95.1 percent in 2017-18. As a result, far fewer children are being exposed to measles than before, saving both lives and money. Also, parents numbering at least in the hundreds have been forced unwillingly to get their kids vaccinated so they could register to attend classes.

          But other anti-vax parents found a way around the new rules, taking advantage of the remaining right to a medical exemption if a physician writes that a child could be harmed by a vaccine.

          The peer-reviewed medical journal “Pediatrics” reported in November that one California doctor was getting $300 each for signing medical exemptions from vaccinations for measles, polio, diptheria, chicken pox and other diseases. The journal said a nurse practitioner also had written exemptions, when only physicians can legally do so. And it found other doctors who already issue medical marijuana recommendations for pot dispensaries have added vaccination exemptions to their repertoire.

          Overall, medical exemptions have tripled since 2015, rising as high as 20 percent of kids registering in a few schools. Doctors say that figure demonstrates at least some medical exemptions are “inappropriate,” polite language for phony.

          Into that climate came independent state Senate candidate Eric Frame to oppose Pan, who had no opposition from either major political party.

          Frame got 13 percent of the primary election vote and 31 percent of fall runoff votes, saying “It’s a fact that children have adverse reactions” to vaccines. Trouble is, that’s not a known fact: Widely-reported “studies” making that claim have been thoroughly debunked, many of their authors forced to recant and apologize. Major health and science organizations unanimously say vaccines may rarely have small side effects, but no major ones like the claimed cases of autism.

          Responded Pan to Frame’s campaign claims, “Spreading misinformation about vaccines is dangerous. We’ve seen a fall in vaccination rates when people spread misinformation…and we’ve seen a return of (some) preventable diseases.”

          This doesn’t deter the anti-vaxxers, one of whose chief spokesmen is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who reacted during the campaign to Pan’s comment by charging Pan “would completely abolish free speech online in California…”

          Kennedy and other anti-vaxxers can’t factually argue with Pan’s statement in “Pediatrics” that “Vaccines are (more than) 1,000 times safer than the diseases they prevent…(even though) vaccine risks may be too high for a few people, for example, those with a known severe allergy to a vaccine.”

          The upshot is that anti-vaxxers can only gain traction when parents become credulous enough to believe unproven claims, claims that don’t become valid just because some people deeply believe them. But there is no sign that any law will diminish their beliefs or their determination to evade vaccination requirements.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to

Friday, December 21, 2018




          The same sort of panic that hit California’s Latinos after the 1994 passage of the anti-illegal immigrant Proposition 187 is now hitting many of this state’s almost 6 million ethnic-Asian residents.

          Latino fears in the wake of 187, which sought to keep the undocumented out of public schools, hospital emergency rooms and seemingly anyplace its authors could imagine, led to citizenship applications and then voter registration by more than 2.5 million Hispanics over the next three years.

          They caused a political revolution in California, which morphed from a swing state equally likely to elect Republicans or Democrats into one of the most staunchly Democratic states in the Union. Only one Republican has been elected to statewide office in the last 20 years, the almost non-partisan former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who won out in the 2003 recall of ex-Gov. Gray Davis.

          Now Asian immigrants are feeling fearful because of President Trump’s ban on entry to this country by residents of several Muslim-majority countries and his attempts to restrict the number of political and humanitarian refugees allowed in, plus a drive to deport Vietnamese refugees with any kind of crime on their record, no matter how old or minor.

Asians also remember the Japanese internment during World War II, in which 120,000 Japanese-Americans were held in remote camps for several years.

          “You hope things like that can’t happen again, but they really can,” said one green card holder from Thailand. “So I will become a citizen.”

          Like her, thousands of Asians in California, from countries as diverse as China, the Philippines and India, see citizenship as the best protection from a potential future expulsion.

          If they become citizens in anything like the proportions of Latinos who felt similarly in California after passage of 187, they could spur vast political changes well beyond this state’s borders. In fact, if both they and citizenship-eligible Latino immigrants ever register in large numbers, they could turn several once-solid Republican states into battlegrounds or cause them to lean Democratic.

          And Asians here are applying, although there are impediments Latinos did not face in the late 1990s. Example: Of the 220,000 immigrants in Orange County now eligible for naturalization, nearby 30 percent are Asian. Of them, about 4,500 applied for naturalization through the first three quarters of 2017. If that trend continues statewide for the remainder of Trump’s current term, more than 150,000 Asians will be added to California’s voting rolls.

          Because they’re registering largely for the same reasons as Latinos once did, they probably won’t change this state’s political composition. But what about other states? Taking Texas as an example, more than 680,000 Asians are now eligible for citizenship but have not applied. That could make for big change in a state that in November almost gave a Democrats their first statewide victory in more than 20 years.

          Yes, the $725 naturalization application fee is a roadblock for many. So is the required blizzard of paperwork. But Texas saw more than 20,000 citizenship applications from Asians last year. If Latinos, many even more apprehensive about Trump’s policies than Asians, register in Texas in similar percentages – and they have not yet – they could combine with Asians to turn Texas Democratic. For that state contains more than 3 million Hispanics who have not sought naturalization despite being eligible.

          For sure, the numbers indicate fear among both Latinos and Asians has not reached the same levels it did among California Hispanics after 187.

          But what happens when and if Trump begins serious work on his long-advertised border wall? And what if he attempts mass deportations of illegal immigrants, as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions advocated during his days in the Senate?

          For sure, hate crimes against immigrants of all kinds increased during Trump’s presidential campaign and his first year in office. If that trend accelerates, it may spur the kind of fears that pushed Latinos to get naturalized here.

          Isaac Newton’s third law of motion tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Just as former President Obama’s policies produced the backlash that elected Trump, so Trump’s policies may already have begun producing an even stronger national backlash against him and his party.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          The Democratic Party didn’t really get off the ground until it found a leader in Thomas Jefferson. Similarly, the Republican Party amounted to almost nothing before Abraham Lincoln put it on the political map.

          Now, with both major California political parties offering little besides extremism, polls show there’s a widespread desire for a third significant political party here. Emblematic was an election-season survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, which asked the question “In your view, do the Republican and Democratic parties…do such a poor job that a third major party is needed.” By a 61-29 percent margin, those surveyed said they’d like to see another party.

          How extreme are the existing parties here? The executive board of the state Democratic Party last summer opted to endorse termed-out former state Senate President Kevin de Leon for the U.S. Senate over the moderate Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who nevertheless won reelection handily. That proved the party’s nominal leaders don’t represent the majority of its registered voters. Rather, they come from the ultra-liberal Bernie Sanders wing of the party, which essentially packed party caucuses last spring in order to begin dominating the Democratic Party structure.

          On the Republican side, several longtime members of Congress lost their jobs in tossup districts primarily because of their staunch support for President Trump, whose rhetorical backing of the far right is legend.

          No wonder many voters in both parties are fed up and increasingly withdrawing their affiliations with any party, the number of no-party-preference voters now surpassing Republicans and gaining on the Democrats.

          But will they get the new party they’d like to see?

          History suggests they won’t unless some major figure arises to lead a movement toward creating a significant new organization that can appeal to disgruntled moderates in both current big parties, shown by the PPIC survey to feel they are not being properly represented.

          That goes for the national level, too. The Ballot Access Newsletter and blog last month reported that the number of voters registering with either existing big party nationally has declined steadily over the last 26 years, down from 81 percent in 1992 to 74 percent in 2008 to just 69 percent last fall.

          For the first time since 1940, the portion of voters registered Democratic nationally was under 40 percent in 2018, while Republicans were at just 29 percent. The latest figures in California are similar, with Democratic registration here a bit ahead of the national proportion and Republicans somewhat behind.

          But so far, nothing has happened to coalesce the obvious unhappiness with both of today’s big parties into anything like a significant movement. That’s because no leader has appeared to galvanize the disgruntlement into something more than mere feelings.

          The last time anything like an attempt at this occurred came in 1992, when billionaire businessman Ross Perot ran an independent campaign and siphoned enough votes away from Republican President George H.W. Bush to put Democrat Bill Clinton in the White House. Perot later founded the Reform Party and in 1996 was its first presidential candidate, but he had far less impact that time. His party had a California organization, but lacked dynamic leadership, and so it faded away.

          This history makes it clear that while any new party will first need a prominent leader and a statement of principles with wide appeal, it still cannot have lasting impact and really compete with Republicans and Democrats unless it also has a solid corps of local leaders to keep voters interested and organized.

          So far there are no signs of any organization like that arising in California, even though it’s plain that the majority of voters want it to happen.

          Which means vast numbers of voters will likely go on making choices between the lesser of what they consider two evils for the next election cycle and well beyond.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, December 17, 2018




          The results of the last election became official only days ago, but already the next big California vote grows near.

          This reality stems from the Legislature’s 2017 move setting California’s 2020 presidential primary on March 3. It puts the election season here on a very early schedule, with hopes California votes might prove decisive or at least influential.

          It means that for candidates, election season has become almost perpetual. California politicos wanting to move on or move up will have to decide their paths earlier than ever.

          And it means presidential candidates may campaign and advertise heavily here next fall. That’s because mail ballots will go out to voters in early February, about the time of the Feb. 3 first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. Voting will go on here right through the nominally earlier primaries and caucuses in smaller states like New Hampshire and Nevada.

          So Californians will see plenty of candidates from around the country, and pretty soon. These will include not only Democrats, but very likely some Republicans, as GOPers have effectively been put on notice by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller that something might happen soon to President Trump, who keeps tweeting and pronouncing denials that he ever did anything wrong. No one has formally accused him of anything. Yet.

          Perhaps, as Shakespeare put it, “the lady doth protest too much.”

          So if former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the runner-up Republican in 2016, wants to run a credible 2020 race, he’ll have to start here in 2019, campaigning while he raises and spends big bucks on a national drive.

          For it will not be only California voting on March 3, 2020, but also Texas, the No. 2 electoral vote and national convention delegate state, plus Virginia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Alabama and Vermont.

          Anyone taking the great bulk of delegates at stake on that so-called “Super Tuesday” just might cinch his or her party’s nomination very early.

          In California, this vote will be different from the last few state elections, where all voters could vote for anyone on the primary ballot, the top two vote-getters advancing to the fall general election.

          In presidential primaries, only Republicans can vote for GOP candidates, while Democrats allow votes from both their own party registrants and independents. Confusing matters, every other office on the ballot will as usual be open for voting by all.

          All this means Californians may soon become familiar with Kasich and visiting Democrats. These will likely include the barely defeated Texas senatorial candidate Robert (Beto) O’Rourke, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and former Vice President Joe Biden, to name just a few. California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris also will likely be trying hard by summer to be a favorite daughter. Potential favorite sons include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, East Bay Congressman Eric Swalwell and billionaire investor Tom Steyer. Some predict soon-to-be-ex-Gov. Jerry Brown, 78, might run.

          Once all these folks begin appearing around the state, and not merely raising money here, the moved-up primary will be accomplishing a key goal: Acquainting potential presidents with California issues on which many presidents have been woefully ignorant.

          But advancing the primary from its traditional June date puts more pressure on new Gov. Gavin Newsom than any other possible candidate. He says he won’t run for president in 2020, but plenty of others have reneged on similar pledges. For Newsom to become a credible candidate, he must record some significant achievements quickly, perhaps by midsummer, when it would become mandatory to start raising money.

          Newsom shares a political consulting firm with Harris, though, and likely would not get in the race unless Harris dropped out. But Trump apparently takes Newsom’s presidential possibilities seriously, dropping the occasional derogatory tweet on him, a treatment usually reserved for significant rivals he wants to belittle.

          All this puts California voters in an unaccustomed spot: Their presidential preferences might actually matter this year, something that has not happened often.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to




          This problem is more than 100 years old: When it comes to safety, California’s Public Utility Commission coddles the big utility companies it regulates, sometimes to the detriment and death of the companies’ own customers.

Way back in 1915, state legislators passed a law requiring the Railroad Commission (renamed the PUC in the 1940s) to assure “protection of employees and the general public.” But the commission waited 13 years, until 1928, to make actual rules, most of which were never enforced.

More recently, the Legislature in 2016 passed a law demanding regular reports on electric line safety, especially in likely fire areas.

But consumer lawyer Michael Aguirre, the former elected city attorney of San Diego, says he has not been able to get the PUC to reveal whether it hired any inspectors since passage of that law, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo. Déjà vu, a century later.

“They should have been inspecting all along…but they have admitted they did not prioritize this,” Hill said in an interview. “I believe the PUC didn’t think this was all that important, and so didn’t do it. They will stonewall wherever they can.”

Meanwhile, in lawsuits filed after last fall’s deadly Woolsey Fire burned more than 1,000 homes in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, the Los Angeles law firm of Panish, Shea & Boyle claimed Southern California Edison Co. has maintained a “run to failure” safety policy. Under that system, the law firm charged, “the utility relied entirely on reactive maintenance as its equipment failed, rather than requiring and enforcing preventative maintenance for its electric facilities.”

The lawyers claimed Edison’s practices were in “callous…disregard for the safety of California communities…”

Edison has not yet responded to those lawsuits.

Both Edison, which last Oct. 30 admitted at least some responsibility in the nightmarish 2017 Thomas Fire that decimated parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. now want consumers to fund wildfire safety campaigns costing hundreds of millions of dollars, including coating many miles of power lines.

Despite Edison’s Thomas Fire admission and PG&E’s having been found officially at fault in the massive Wine Country fires of late 2017, the PUC has never tried to punish any corporate official supervising power line safety. That’s coddling. It has persisted more than 100 years, and it’s high time it ends.

          Even after years of enhanced fire danger, the PUC reports it has just nine employees in its Safety and Enforcement Division tasked with making random audits of power transmission lines and checking natural gas pipes. That’s nine to cover thousands of miles. PUC officials did not answer queries on whether randomized inspections by those nine engineers included any areas where big recent fires began and whether they ever issued citations there.

          All this presents incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom with an opportunity for significant action, for anyone who follows utility rate increase proceedings knows that no matter who’s been on the PUC over at least the last 50 years, it has favored companies over customers.

          Newsom can quickly begin changing this.

          His first chance arises with the Dec. 31 end of the six-year term of PUC Commissioner Carla Peterman, appointed by Brown in late 2012. Peterman, who declined to be interviewed, has never fought against favoring the utilities.

          Newsom’s choice for her position will be critical, as will his picks for two more slots opening in early 2021. Plus, he can demote PUC President Michael Picker back to being an ordinary commissioner. A former Brown aide, Picker expressed more concern for the financial well-being of utilities than their customers’ fates after the immense fall fires. PUC presidents decide who supervises each case and can influence meeting agendas.

          A new PUC chief could spur the large-scale safety checks required by Hill’s 2016 state law.

          So Newsom can create big change at this scandal-ridden agency, which only four years ago spent $10 million in public funds on criminal lawyers to protect commissioners.

          It’s an early consumerist test for the new governor, also testing the Democratic supermajority in the state Senate, which must confirm any appointee to the powerful PUC.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to

Monday, December 10, 2018




          As this winter’s gift-giving season proceeds, California voters might want to pause a moment and pat themselves on the back for a gift that has lasted 30 years: Proposition 103.

          If there ever was a ballot measure proving the effectiveness of direct democracy, making policy by letting the public vote on important policy choices, this is it.

          Voters who participated back in 1988 might also want to congratulate themselves on resisting the blandishments of a massive advertising campaign that sought to squash this initiative, whose backers were outspent by margins of more than 10-1. Fully $63 million was spent against Proposition 103 – that’s $134 million in today’s dollars, far more than the $110 million spent against this fall’s dialysis-meddling Proposition 8 – and it still won by a large margin.

          Most of the money came from the insurance industry, which until then had pretty much had its way with California regulators. Before that vote, governors appointed California’s insurance commissioner, with no firm rules governing what rate increases that official could allow for car and property insurance.

          Proposition 103 changed all this immediately. It made the insurance commissioner an elected state officer and imposed limits on premium increases. The Consumer Federation of America reported last month the measure has saved California motorists alone $154 billion over 30 years compared with what drivers in other states have paid – an average of about $5 billion yearly.

          The group found that auto liability insurance – the most basic part of an auto policy – now costs 5.7 percent less in California than it did 30 years ago, when the law took effect in early 1989. Prices for the same coverage meanwhile rose 58.5 percent around the rest of America.

          No one has calculated the accompanying savings on homeowner insurance and other property coverage, but it’s certain they have also been substantial. State Farm Insurance, for just one example, is now in court trying to avoid an order to reduce homeowners’ rates by $150 million a year.

          For those whom soon-to-be-ex-Gov. Jerry Brown likes to call “declinists,” that’s one thing keeping living expenses under control even while California sales and income taxes are somewhat higher than in most other states.

          “Can you name anything else that costs less now than it did 30 years ago?” asks Proposition 103 author Harvey Rosenfield, former president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, now known as Consumer Watchdog, one of the state’s leading consumer advocate groups.

          “When I wrote it, I never imagined it would save motorists as much as it has,” he said.

          Among other things Prop. 103 established: Auto insurance prices are based mostly on a driver’s safety record and miles driven, insurance companies now must open their books and justify all rate increases and they can no longer base rates on where customers live, a practice commonly known as “redlining,” which saw residents of the poorest areas forced to pay some of the highest prices.

          Of course, enforcement of these rules has not always been certain. Over the years, the insurance industry has filed more than 100 lawsuits against Prop. 103, besides trying to get the state Legislature to nullify most of its rules. Two initiatives to water it down have also been defeated.

          This fight may never end. Five current court and administrative proceedings are now challenging parts of Prop. 103, even while State Farm Insurance fights its big refund order.

          “This is proof that citizen initiatives can change the way consumers are treated and make the system fairer,” says Carmen Balber, Consumer Watchdog executive director.

          In this time when it’s become possible for state legislators to interfere in the initiative process and reach “settlements” with sponsors of measures that have qualified for the ballot, skeptics often question whether it’s wise to let the public – not politicians – decide important policy issues.

          But Prop. 103 stands as a shining example of what the initiative process at its purest can accomplish if voters can see through the flood of special interest advertising so common at election times and make decisions of their own about key issues affecting their lives and pocketbooks.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          There is a school of thought, mostly pushed by Latino activist politicians, which says undocumented immigrants contribute to American life and prosperity and therefore should have virtually all the rights of citizens.

          For a long time, it appeared an unlimited granting of rights previously reserved for U.S. citizens would be among the major legacies of outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown, who has served more time in the office than any other person.

          But even for Brown there turned out to be a limit.

          Brown signed the law giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. He okayed rules making all immigrant children, even the undocumented, eligible for state-paid medical insurance under Medi-Cal. He gave that same group access to in-state tuition for public colleges and universities. He signed a bill letting non-citizens – even those not here legally – practice law and become accountants. Then he okayed the hiring of legal immigrants as poll workers.

          On his watch, illegal immigrants began voting in California for the first time ever. That happened without many problems and without much fanfare this fall in San Francisco, where a few dozen undocumented parents of children in that city’s public schools became the first illegals in California history to cast ballots legally, doing it in a school board election where they indirectly helped decide how taxes paid by citizens will be spent.

          In short, Brown quietly did more to assimilate immigrants into the daily commercial and political life of California than anyone before him. But even he had a limit.

          That was when it came to a bill allowing non-citizens to serve on official boards and commissions. Brown’s message was simple and succinct when he vetoed SB 174, authored by the termed-out Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara of East Los Angeles, about to become state Insurance Commissioner. Previously, Lara helped write the law giving drivers licenses to the undocumented and was a sponsor of California’s “sanctuary state” law that prohibits California police and sheriffs from turning over many criminals to federal agents for deportation when they’re released from jails.

          Said Brown’s veto message: “I believe existing law – which requires citizenship for these forms of public service – is the better path.”

          Lara disagreed, saying non-citizens deserve representation in public life because they pay at least some taxes. Lara added that “Qualified Californians who have worked hard and are experts in their field should be given the opportunity to serve the state, regardless of immigration status.”

          Lara also told legislators as his bill progressed through one committee after another that only immigrants with work permits, known as green cards, would be able to claim payment for their service.

          Brown, however, drew a line, but it’s uncertain whether Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom will go the same way if and when a similar bill makes it through the Legislature.

          The efforts to give noncitizens more rights and privileges are part of a movement toward complete normalization of life for immigrants who have not bothered to become citizens, including even the undocumented. Ironically, the harder President Trump and his supporters push for deporting every illegal immigrant, the greater the pushback from their supporters.

          There’s now a movement, for example, to let immigrants over 18 vote in all local and state elections. It is backed by some prominent politicians, including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Wrote one syndicated columnist, “Noncitizens, legal and not, are ready. Many have been residents for decades. The younger ones learned the principles of American democracy in our school systems and some volunteer for candidates and causes. Their economic power and concern for our collective future is qualification enough (for) the voting booth.”

          The problem, of course, is that giving this ultimate civic right to noncitizens, along with all the other privileges Brown okayed, removes much of the motive to do the very basic book-learning needed to become a citizen.

          Which makes letting noncitizens vote or serve as government officials of any kind a bad idea, something that even a dedicated immigrant advocate like Brown finally realized.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit