Monday, December 27, 2021






        Depending on who you are, California’s newly redrawn congressional district lines are producing either big yawns or a lot of consternation.


        Yes, there is the usual posturing. The state’s hugely outnumbered Republican Party, for example, issued a statement immediately after seeing the changes, saying “It’s going to be tough running in 2022 with a D behind your name.” Probably incorrect.


        For it now appears that even though one Democratic district was virtually obliterated in the mapping process (Lucille Roybal-Allard’s current 40th, in eastern Los Angeles County), California Democrats will end up with at least as many House seats as they now hold. No surprise, Roybal-Allard, 80, announced her impending retirement just days before the new lines became official.


        Yes, there will be some churn. For example, if the Latino majorities in 16 of the new districts (three more than among the old ones) vote in larger numbers than usual, some longtime officeholders could be turned out in the June primary election.


        But Democrats will have more voters than Republicans in 43 of the 52 new or surviving districts, while others – like two-term Democrat Mike Levin’s territory centered on northern San Diego County – will have about even party registration numbers. That means a lot will turn on the registration and turnout efforts of both parties, and Democrats have essentially whipped Republicans in those departments over the last two decades, holding almost a 2-1 registration edge statewide.


        Meanwhile, there are large contingents of no-party-preference voters in many districts, and those folks have generally – but not always – leaned to Democrats.


        Some of the more interesting changes will see two-term Orange County Democrat Katie Porter keep only part of her current mostly inland district, but eat up a lot of the old coastal 48th District now represented by Michelle Steel. Steel will run in a different district rather than challenge the extremely well-funded Porter, who has a national fan base.


        That leaves former Democratic Congressman Harley Rouda, who expected a rematch of his tight 2020 race with with Steel, casting about for a logical course. Will he oppose Porter, or instead wangle some kind of federal appointment, as deposed members of Congress often do?


        The current 25th District, which has included the hugely contrasting Antelope Valley in Los Angeles County and suburban Simi Valley in Ventura County, will no longer have Simi Valley, but instead pick up a couple of mostly Democratic pieces of Los Angeles. Does that mean automatic defeat for incumbent Republican Mike Garcia, who won office by the state’s slimmest margin in 2020?


        Said Garcia, “Five out of the 11 (current GOP) districts see Republicans more vulnerable, but I know we will win in this new district.” Time will tell.


        In the Central Valley, increased Latino population percentages were one reason veteran Republican Devin Nunes gave up his Visalia-centered seat to work for ex-President Donald Trump, despite his long record of not paying the help. Those same new numbers will imperil the political future of Hanford’s David Valadao, who has split the last two elections in very tight races. But two-term Democrat Josh Harder of Modesto will seek at least some new hunting grounds because bunches of incoming Republicans have altered his current 10th District. He will likely move slightly south.


        The new plan leaves major national figures like San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi and Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy as safe as ever, meaning it’s almost certain the speaker of the House will still be a Californian when the voting is over.


        This all has to be disappointing to Republicans who believed California’s loss of one House seat due to low population growth would help them take back the House majority.


        But current trends suggest the GOP may have clinched a House majority even before the November polls close in California.


        Still, a strong legislative comeback for President Biden’s agenda during the first half of the new year could change that picture and leave Democrats still narrowly in control of the House – if they can stay unified, which has been their biggest challenge over the last few years.


    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






        If California’s often misguided utility regulators wanted to prove they are determined to favor privately owned electric companies over almost any other interest, they could not do better than with new rules they now propose to inflict on people with rooftop solar panels.


        To understand this ongoing dispute, take a look at how utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric profit most from solar.


        When photovoltaic solar panels are installed atop roofs, parking lots and in backyards, the local electric company makes no money under the current rules, known as “net energy metering,” or NEM. Homeowners, parking lot owners and others with panels use the energy they need, then send the rest to the general grid and get paid minor sums for it.


        Without rooftop solar, which requires no new transmission lines to reach its end users, the private utilities must buy power from vast solar thermal farms in the California deserts, transporting the energy on lines that cost billions of dollars to erect. Without some form of solar, the utilities cannot meet state renewable energy quotas.


Every cent the utilities spend on new transmission lines comes from consumers, but the companies are guaranteed to profit by more than 10 percent each year on all they spend for such capital investments.


        So the utilities have a strong interest in putting the clamps on rooftop solar. Did the PUC know before making its new rule proposal that within days, the federal government would OK building two new solar thermal farms deep in the Mojave Desert?


        It was the often-misguided Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego who first tried to stifle rooftop solar, carrying a 2020 bill with rules very like what’s now before the PUC, due for a vote Jan. 27 in San Francisco.


        Gonzalez, who also wrote the ill-advised AB5 that has wrecked the livelihoods of many freelance professionals and others, proposed ending the current guarantee to solar homeowners that rules will remain stable for at least 20 years after systems go in. She wanted the PUC to set new monthly fees for solar owners connected to the grid – about 97 percent of rooftop solar owners.


        Her bill died quickly. But the newly termed out PUC Commissioner Martha Guzman-Aceves, a former United Farm Workers lawyer, picked up on it with today’s proposal, which goes beyond even what Gonzalez proposed.


        It would impose a monthly fee of approximately $50 to $70 on each rooftop owner and reduce what home solar owners get for their excess power, among other items.


        That’s just what the utilities want. They pretend this will save non rooftop solar owners money, but never mention their baked-in profits from new transmission lines, money that’s included in electric rates. Meanwhile, millions of consumers can already get solar power from publicly owned Community Choice Aggregations in places like Butte, Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. These outfits provide energy cheaper than the utilities while renting space on the companies’ transmission lines to bring power to their customers.


        So it’s no wonder the utilities like the proposed new rules, with their disincentives to installing new rooftop panels. Said Southern California Edison when the plan got preliminary approval, “(This is) a meaningful step (to) reduce the financial burden on non-solar customers who have subsidized net energy metering…”


        That’s the kind of half-truth California’s utilities often spout. In this case, needed new transmission lines will ensure a large net benefit to the companies at customer expense.


        Right now, there is every likelihood the PUC will rubber stamp the new rules, no matter what it hears during the current public comment period, when anyone can speak or write their piece to the commissioners.


        But by Jan. 27, the PUC will have two new members, giving at least some hope this will suffer the same fate as the Gonzalez bill of 2020.


        Odds are the PUC will OK this proposal, just as it does most items its staff presents. That would be yet another contribution to the long tradition of state and federal regulators favoring the big companies over their customers.


    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 20, 2021





        Politicians thrive on power. Psychological studies often find they seek office and once there, try to stick around to preserve their power more than to get rich.


        So it’s ironic that criminals, a group despised by this state’s political class, should now be in position to set much of California’s political agenda for 2022. In this state of almost 40 million persons, as few as 200 to 300 individuals took group actions in November that might reverse years of liberal lawmaking and leftist defiance of the voters’ will on things like cash bail.


        There was nothing constructive in what they did. The agenda has already been shifted somewhat by a group of supposed gang members via their series of “smash-and-grab” burglaries in November and early December, almost exclusively targeting high-end stores like Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton and Lululemon.


        Riding four to a car, these organized and prepared bandits appeared suddenly in dark evening hours, sledge-hammered their way through thick plate glass windows and made off with goods worth as much as $5 million.


        In some cases they failed, as police arrived before some stores in Palo Alto and Los Angeles could be looted. Some stolen goods were later recovered from storage lockers, where they were stashed to await eBay appearances and flea market sales.


        With the aid of security cameras and tips from persons who recorded license numbers from among the fleets of getaway cars, police caught some of those alleged to have conducted the raids.


        They were a mix of men and women of several ethnicities, and because of the left-leaning politics that have governed California for the last few decades, most of those captured did not spend much time in jail.


        In Los Angeles, where District Attorney George Gascon imposes an almost absolute no-cash-bail policy on the nation’s largest local court system, all 14 bandits arrested locally were quickly released to await court appearances. That spurred fears the same suspects would soon commit other crimes. In LA County, which voted 55-45 percent on a 2020 state ballot referendum to keep cash bail in effect, it was no coincidence when Gascon was served with fresh recall notices within days.


        In San Francisco, where ultra-leftist DA Chesa Boudin already faces a recall vote, a few suspected group burglars who operated in posh Union Square were held in custody on judges’ orders, but others were released.


        Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom looked nervous and uncertain as he proclaimed that the flash mob attacks must halt. And Attorney General Rob Bonta, who voted while a state legislator to end cash bail, staged a San Mateo County appearance to announce a six year sentence for the final and primary defendant in a years-ago scheme to heist drugs from stores there and sell them overseas.


        No one could remember the last time Bonta joined local authorities in celebrating a tough sentence.


        Bonta has been joined by other Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Gavin Newsom in revising prior soft-on-crime rhetoric.


It’s uncertain how much all this action will change the state’s 2022 political scene, already sure to feature issues like housing and water, not to mention a host of hot congressional and legislative races in newly revised districts.


        But fear has always been a huge factor in voting, and it’s been at least a decade since Californians felt a strong fear of crime just before casting their ballots. Exactly such fear motivated the 1986 campaign ginned up by then-Gov. George Deukmejian, who succeeded in ousting three liberal justices of the state Supreme Court opposed to the death penalty.


        With an almost entirely different electorate today, the potential effects of fear and crime on the year’s politics are less predictable.


        But the reactions of Newsom, Bonta and others to the rash of smash-and-grab robberies was probably instructive. The California banditry drew more publicity than similar crimes in other places as varied as Chicago and New Orleans.


        Top Democrats displayed far more anxiety over the mass burglaries than over any other issue they’ll face this year. They obviously realize fear of crime could hurt them badly. Which puts an awful lot of power in the hands of the criminals who organized the raids here and could orchestrate more.

    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






        On a de facto basis, Californians have had a right to shelter for many years. But plenty of unhoused people have never had the opportunity to exercise that right and plenty of others just aren’t interested.


        Together, these two populations make up much of the approximately 160,000 homeless population in this state on any given night.


        Giving them a formal right to shelter would permit any of the unhoused to go to court and demand a roof over their heads; never mind who might have to pay for that.


        This suggestion comes from Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, a former president of the state Senate who has long fought to improve life for the mentally ill.


        The right for individuals to demand their localities provide some sort of shelter is one new aspect of Steinberg’s proposal, not yet adopted by his own city council.


        In a formal sense, this Steinberg proposal is novel. But in a de facto world where tent cities of the indigent homeless line streets in many California cities, it’s not. Many cities and counties have expended billions of dollars trying to create housing for the homeless, from large shelters to hotel rooms to colonies of tiny homes. By voting for hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds to create housing for the unsheltered, Californians essentially created a right to a roof even though it was never directly voted on.


Legislators in 2020 voted to make this a formal, legal right, but Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed it, saying it might cost too much to house everyone who needs a domicile.


        What’s really novel about the Steinberg proposal is that besides giving everyone the right to shelter, it also imposes an obligation on the homeless: If this plan is adopted, they would suddenly have an “obligation to accept housing” where it’s offered.


        But many thousands of the unhoused want no obligations. They know moving into shelters or tiny homes or sanctioned tent villages in spots acceptable to local governments and residents generally comes with rules. These might cover drug abuse, sanitary standards or a requirement to accept counseling.


        Many homeless individuals have told this column they’d rather stay that way than accept one or another such obligation.


        Which means the Steinberg plan, despite the sense in Sacramento that it’s unique, is not – except that it would require the city to provide enough housing for everyone who needs it in either permanent structures or other places deemed acceptable.


        A key to this plan is the promise that outreach workers (not police) would contact every homeless individual in the city, trying to convince them to accept shelter. If that effort is carried out and fails, the city would then be permitted to remove encampments to keep streets sanitary.


        One thing that that’s unclear: Could Steinberg’s plan stand up in court to challenges based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Boise vs. Martin decision and its ban on removing individuals from public property for sleeping or living there – so long as shelter beds have been made available.


        What is clear is that despite all that’s been spent on trying to solve homelessness, and despite plenty of happy talk from politicians, the problem is larger than ever, this state containing more than one-fourth of America’s total homeless populace, the weather perhaps attracting many of them.


        It’s possible the Boise decision may have to be challenged and loosened, with new villages for the homeless then being built on vacant land at the peripheries of urban areas. Under that circumstance, persons who refuse to move into shelters because they don’t want rules might be compelled to move away from many places where they now congregate.


        For sure, the problem now is reminiscent of squeezing silly putty: Every time a homeless encampment is closed, another one seems to spring up nearby.


        The bottom line: There is little reason to deny the unhoused a right to shelter, so long as they accept that shelter and don’t persist in living on sidewalks or in parks. At the same time, it may be time for a stricter, but still quite humane, alternative for those who refuse to exercise their de facto right to a roof.

    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 13, 2021








        Here are a few of the lies Californians are being told in an effort that surely has helped sicken many:


        Take a COVID-19 vaccination and your life span will be shortened. Get the shot and you will be sterilized or become impotent. Shots include insertion of tracking bots. The pandemic is a government-created conspiracy.


        These are absolute falsehoods, pure shibboleths, but in the parts of California with the lowest average levels of educational attainment, they and other falsehoods are in large part responsible for holding down vaccination rates and keeping caseloads high.


        They have made COVID-19 – in the age of some of history’s most effective vaccines – mostly a disease of the gullible and the fearful.


Two neighboring counties show how this plays out:


         As of mid-December, Riverside County, with 2.47 million population, had seen 5,402 Covid-related deaths over the last two years, while Orange County, with 3.5 million persons, had 5,746 deaths. That’s about 225 deaths per 100,000 population in Riverside County to only about 164 deaths per 100,000 population in a next-door county.


        No one can be absolutely sure, but some information suggests that folks in Orange County might be better trained to see through lies than those in Riverside County. U.S. Census figures show 40.6 percent of Orange County’s adult populace with college degrees compared with about 22 percent in Riverside County.


        This may be a key reason only 55.6 percent of eligible Riverside County residents were fully vaccinated (two doses), compared with 63.9 percent in Orange County.


For sure, vaccinations are saving lives in both counties. It is primarily the unvaccinated who are dying today from this now-preventable virus.


        The difference is even more striking in Kern County, with lower educational attainment rates than either Riverside or Orange county, and a fully vaccinated rate of only about 44 percent. So far, about one in every six Kern County residents has contracted Covid within the last two years.


        All this raises a vital question: Since educational attainment takes many years to achieve, how can less educated Californians best be inoculated against the anti-vaccination propaganda spewed daily, almost hourly, on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok?


        One way could be via government censorship of those sites. But that runs counter to the First Amendment, which gives anyone the right to prevaricate, even when their lies prove fatal for others.


        Best would be to launch a torrid, carefully-timed campaign of pro-vaccination information. One tactic might be to place public service ads on virtually every TV show and social media outlet, juxtaposing their messages with the anti-inoculation lies and vivid illustrations of their consequences.


        California government is already set up to do this kind of thing, its anti-tobacco campaign many years old and with proven results including a far lower smoking rate among teenagers than 20 years ago.


        Those ads often feature videos of lung cancer, asthma and emphysema victims coughing and wheezing while they bemoan their onetime smoking habits.


Why not imitate this, making videos in Covid intensive care units around the state, with terminal victims on ventilators relieved of their breathing tubes just long enough to say how much they regret believing the anti-vaxx propaganda.


        Another might be thorough newspaper and television analysis of anti-vaccination articles posted frequently by organizations like the national Children’s Health Defense group, headed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who uses his name and pedigree to peddle misleading information about Covid vaccines, just as he has through many years of lying about immunizations for other diseases like rubella, mumps, measles and polio.


        It would help to show graphically how anti-vaxxers often lift numbers from reports of the Centers for Disease Control and use them out of context. Newspaper ads or TV commercials could show how apparently adverse statistics may at first appear large, but are actually minuscule, extremely tiny compared to the total number of vaccinations given.


        So far, there is no steady campaign to debunk the lies and half-truths purveyed by anti-vaxxers. Meanwhile, the numbers from various California counties demonstrate how dangerous and damaging those untruths are, even today, when the combination of vaccines and masks make Covid pretty much an optional disease, mostly victimizing the gullible.



    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 will be plenty of political battles next year, starting with likely reelection challenges to Gov. Gavin Newsom and similar efforts to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla.


        Heated contests for the insurance commissioner’s job and an effort to unseat appointed state Attorney General Rob Bonta have already started.


        Initiative fights are also pretty certain, on subjects from sports gambling to flavored tobacco, state funding of private and religious schools to jury trials in child custody cases, online voting and a proposed requirement to spend 2 percent of the state’s general fund on water projects every year.


        But Bonta, a former ultra-liberal assemblyman from the East Bay suburbs of San Francisco named attorney general when President Biden picked Xavier Becerra to be his secretary of Health and Human Services, has assured that housing will vie to be the year’s No. 1 issue.


        Bonta, never yet elected to statewide office and already with one serious challenger, almost seems to be using reverse psychology that might inadvertently promote a proposed initiative aiming to restore full authority over local zoning and land use to local governments, where until very recently it has resided as long as California has been a state.


        Bonta backed two new laws best known by their state Senate bill numbers, SB 9 and SB 10, which together could virtually eliminate single family neighborhoods all over this state. He also has threatened to start enforcing previous state laws that require every city and county in California to boost housing supplies hugely on pain of lawsuits and financial penalties.


        Bonta named a 12-member “strike force” within the state’s Justice Department to “look at local jurisdictions’ responsibilities to build more housing,” adding that “there will be consequences, there will be accountability” if cities and counties don’t knuckle under.


        Those pre-existing laws, via guidelines from the Department of Housing and Community Development, have already forced many cities to plan vast new developments that could produce as many as a million new housing units. Relatively few of those units have been built, for lack of well-financed developers and the fact that buyers for new homes can be hard to find.


        Now come several groups determined to preserve single-family neighborhoods that embody the longstanding “California Dream” of owning private open space and greenery.


        Their initiative runs completely counter to what Bonta and his longtime ally, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, are trying to do, which is essentially to remake California cities into dense New York-ish anthills of high-rises and brownstone-style duplexes.


        SB 9 and SB 10, for example, combine to allow six units on every lot where there is now one home. They also call for high-rise developments near “major transportation corridors” and light rail stops. All without any requirements for affordability, parking, new water supplies or new schools.


        In response, the initiative due to start circulating this winter would remove from the state all the powers Bonta, Wiener and allies like Oakland-based YIMBY (Yes in My Back Yard) want to exert over local land use.


        Says the proposed law, “The purpose of this measure is to ensure that all decisions regarding local land use controls, including zoning law and regulations, are made by the affected communities…”


        In short, this proposed state constitutional amendment would make it impossible for the state Legislature ever again to try reshaping the state by seizing powers traditionally held by local governments.


        This is a change of the usual tactic used in trying to nullify new laws. It is informed by what happened after voters last year passed a referendum cancelling a state law ending cash bail. Legislators responded by proposing a different new law that left a few circumstances allowing cash bail, but mostly would eliminate the current bail system. Expect that to pass in 2022.


        Advocates of local decision-making and single family homes want to prevent similar end runs around their initiative, so they’re trying to eliminate all state powers over local land use.


        It’s an extreme solution to a problem foisted on neighborhoods by highly ideological lawmakers like Wiener. Given the way today’s legislators often won’t accept the voters’ will, something that strong may be needed.


     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 6, 2021






        Just in case California legislators are looking for best, longest-lasting Christmas present they could possibly give this state’s millions of consumers, it’s this:


        Make the state’s currently uncontrolled regulators into elective officials. That’s the logical solution to what’s happening right now, when almost all are the virtual property of utility companies and other interests they are supposed to supervise.


        It’s true regulators serving on the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Air Resources Board (ARB) and Energy Commission are duty-bound to make sure prices and other rules allow for long-term survival of big companies whose practices they have the power to direct and change. So long as those companies behave prudently.


        Here’s the dictionary definition of prudence: “acting with or showing care and thought for the future.”


        Companies like Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, General Motors, Toyota, Honda and Ford often don’t act that way.


        So any obligation to keep them alive and thriving, with guaranteed profits for the utility companies in particular, should vanish. Irresponsible behavior by PG&E has killed more than 100 persons via wildfires hitting after company actions demonstrated little or no care about the future. PG&E, for example, over the 50 years before 2010, diverted to bonuses and profits more than $65 billion in money customers paid monthly for supposed maintenance work.


        There were no penalties for this or parallel misdeeds by other companies. Similarly, no automaker has ever been penalized for repeated delays and stalling in building cleaner cars, which they falsely and loudly declared impossible before finally meeting California requirements.


        By far the worst offender among California regulators is the PUC, which gives utilities vast sums of new consumer money via rate increases while excusing or forcing customers to subsidize negligent behavior. One example is the 2019 creation of the state Wildfire Fund, designed to pay billions of dollars in damages for future fires the PUC and the utilities expect the companies to spark because of many years of poor maintenance.


        Most recently, Gov. Gavin Newsom and California’s two U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, called on the PUC to shut down the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage site, which leaked methane gas onto the Porter Ranch portion of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles for more than four months in 2015 and 2016.


        More than 1,000 households had to relocate, two schools closed for long periods and the Southern California Gas Co. eventually paid a $1.8 billion settlement to more than 35,000 persons sickened by the leak, no big deal for that behemoth company.


        But no one ever claimed the leak was permanently plugged, even as SoCalGas kept Aliso Canyon and similar sites open indefinitely. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown declared this situation an emergency and Newsom told the PUC to close the site.


        But because the PUC answers to no one, its members serving six-year terms and almost impossible to remove, Aliso Canyon stayed open. Then, just last month, the PUC voted unanimously to increase amounts of gas stored there.


        The reason listed was a supposition that only stored gas can prevent the kind of interruptions in home heating that have plagued Texas in recent winters, when many Texans endured sub-freezing temperatures in their homes.


        Yet, there is no evidence that Aliso Canyon or other SoCal Gas storage sites are needed to avert heating problems. These have never occurred here and there is little evidence for claims there might be blockages this winter on pipelines bringing natural gas to California from the Permian Basin of Texas and Oklahoma or the fracking fields of Wyoming and western Colorado.


        So the latest PUC action on Aliso Canyon is another in a half-century string of decisions where regulators favor monopolistic companies over customers.


        The only way to change all this is by fundamentally altering the rules by which regulators operate in this state. That would take a constitutional amendment making the regulators elective officers who answer to voters (consumers).


        It’s high time legislators got started on that, especially since they could right now legitimately present any such measure as a Christmas gift to consumers that would keep on giving indefinitely.



    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






        California’s ballot initiative process has never been more effective or beneficial to voters (who are also utility customers) than since the strongly consumerist Proposition 103 passed handily in 1988.


        Now the San Diego-based Sixth District state Court of Appeal has brazenly tried to gut a major part of that law, which made the insurance commissioner an elected official and has saved insurance customers more than $110 billion in excessive charges, an average of about $3.4 billion a year.


        No other state has a similar law, and the judges moved to overturn a big part of it in a dispute over delayed car insurance premium refunds from State Farm Insurance resulting from overcharges during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic.


        It’s not only State Farm that’s refusing so far to refund money paid while rates were based on pre-pandemic driving habits. So far, state Insurance Commissioner Richard Lara has asked companies for $5.5 billion in voluntary rebates, but only $1.9 billion has been paid. State Farm’s share of the unpaid $3.6 billion balance due to almost every driver in California comes to about $100 million. The company wants to prevent that payout from becoming mandatory.


        This is one area where part of California’s cost of living should be lower than anywhere else. No other state limits rate increases and allows refunds where justified.


        But the appellate decision maintains voters in 1988 never meant to permit the insurance commissioner to order refunds, as Lara and several previous commissioners have done.


        Voters, said the ruling, were “not concerned about rate manipulation.”


        This was an absurd assertion, since Proposition 103 is almost exclusively about precisely that nefarious practice.


        “We were out to prevent people from getting fleeced by insurance companies,” said Harvey Rosenfield, the Consumer Watchdog lawyer who authored the law. “So this decision could not have gotten the issue more wrong.”


        Rosenfield is appealing the ruling to the state Supreme Court, citing two prior decisions from that court which unanimously upheld the insurance commissioner’s right to order justified refunds.


        But he’s not certain the state’s highest court will even take the case, since several new justices have arrived since the most recent ruling on this issue, repeatedly raised by insurance companies hoping to get a statewide decision exactly like the one from San Diego.


        “Californians passed Proposition 103 to protect themselves against arbitrary rates and discriminatory practices by requiring insurance companies to keep rates and premiums fair at all times or else be accountable to the insurance commissioner,” Rosenfield said.


        But State Farm, Mercury Insurance and some other companies have never stopped trying to return California insurance law to something like what applies elsewhere.


        So far, that effort has failed. But the insurance industry, never short of lawyers, keeps on fighting and the San Diego decision is the most favorable one the companies have ever won.


        The issue of whether insurance commissioners can order refunds is important, but it’s nowhere near as vital as Proposition 103’s giving the commissioner review power over rate increases, a provision that would be at risk if this ruling prevails.


        Amazingly, the San Diego court held that Proposition 103 never intended to protect consumers – despite that being the entire theme of the Proposition 103 campaign and its application for more than 30 years. Rather, the court said voters intended to protect insurance companies.


        Now the only folks who can overturn this astounding, unfounded conclusion are the seven justices of the state Supreme Court.


        Serendipitously, three of them – Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Justice Martin Jenkins and Justice Joshua Groban – are up for voter approval or rejection next fall.


        The three will be subjects of yes-or-no votes on whether each should be permitted to serve another 12 years. If the no side prevails on any of them, that justice would be removed and replaced by a new appointee named by whoever wins the concurrent vote for governor.


        For sure, yes-or-no votes should hinge in large part on how the justices rule on Proposition 103. That’s because any judge voting either not to take the case or to uphold the San Diego decision would essentially be saying the voters’ will counts for nothing.

    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, November 29, 2021







        One thing for sure in the wake of the Thanksgiving week smash-and-grab flash mobs: The bandits who raided high-end stores from Walnut Creek and San Francisco to Beverly Hills and the Fairfax district of Los Angeles were not thinking about Gov. Gavin Newsom when they sledge-hammered their way to tens of thousands of dollars in plunder.


        But they have presented Newsom with both opportunity and peril, as evidenced by the immediate reaction of California Republican Party operatives who blamed the whole mess on him and his fellow Democrats.


        “Gavin Newsom and California Democrats have made our state a more dangerous place to live, work and raise a family,” a statement from Orange County’s Republican Party accused while the gang-burglary spree was still underway.


        The GOP blamed Newsom for endorsing the 2014 Proposition 47, which lowered many felonies to the misdemeanor category, plus penalty-reducing measures like one that makes theft or burglary a felony only when more than $950 worth of material or cash is stolen.


        But here’s one reality: When somewhere between 30 and 50 cars and 80-odd persons descend on a department store together, as happened in Walnut Creek, a lot more than 80 people knew about it. Why did none of them warn the police or the store itself of the highly organized raid? Was that a failure of parental instruction in morals or a failure of public schools in educating students on personal responsibility?


        We may learn more as questioning and trials proceed for the few bandits police nabbed. Or not.


        We already know Newsom, also while the flurry of lawlessness continued across the state, took action by ordering heightened patrols near stores and malls by the California Highway Patrol through the holiday shopping season.


        “The level of organized retail theft we are seeing is simply unacceptable,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “Businesses and customers should feel safe while doing their holiday shopping.”


        But they won’t just now, no matter how many CHP officers Newsom stations in shopping mall parking lots. If anything else was also unacceptable, it was the fact Newsom took off on a family vacation in Mexico just as his office issued his statement, rather than showing up in stores to show his support, the way every governor from Earl Warren to Ronald Reagan to Jerry Brown would have done.


        So there will likely be stunted sales in stores, which might or might not be made up via online orders.


        For certain, Newsom’s political opponents will use his quick exit from the state against him when he runs for reelection next year. Republicans might even be effective if they run someone against Newsom who’s more moderate than Larry Elder, the right wing talk show host who was their de facto recall election standard bearer last summer.


        Kevin Faulconer (ex-San Diego mayor who drew barely 8 percent of the recall replacement vote), are you listening?


        Newsom still has plenty of time to recover. In fact, if he can get his ultra-liberal appointed attorney general Rob Bonta to spearhead charging any nabbed store raiders with felonies, not mere misdemeanors, he could end up smelling fine.


        But if judges appointed by Newsom and Brown insist on misdemeanor trials instead, the soft-on-crime label may stick and haunt him, especially if he ever runs for President.


        Like all other events, the store break-ins did not occur in a vacuum: They are tied to Newsom and Prop. 47 just as they can legitimately be linked to the May 31, 2020 nationally televised criminal rampage through Santa Monica and the trendy Melrose Avenue area of Los Angeles, which set an example for the new invasions with very slow police responses and very few thieves caught.


        For sure, Republicans will try to hang all this on Newsom next year, making crime and public safety as big an issue as they can.


        Newsom has the power to defuse all this if he gets more active than merely sending out some police patrols. But he’ll never advance his career if he heads off on more family vacations at key moments in the lives and fears of other Californians.



    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