Monday, February 28, 2022







        Just a week or so before the filing deadline for California state offices, only one semi-serious challenger had emerged to run against incumbent Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.


        No major Democrats need apply, and some big Republican names opted out, like talk show host Larry Elder, the leading replacement candidate in last fall’s failed recall election.


        This is where the GOP’s consistent inability to elect its folks to statewide office comes in: Everyone who could have seemed a formidable challenger to Newsom this year already ran against him last year, trying to oust him in the September recall election. Against a field of more than 100 candidates, Newsom won by a margin of almost 62-38 percent.


        Which leaves the opposition with Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle, a relative unknown from the thinly-populated North state.


        Newsom’s edge last fall was almost identical both to his winning margin in 2018 and President Biden’s advantage over ex-President Donald Trump in California. Landslide territory, when about 40 percent of voters almost always go Republican and 40 percent Democratic, no matter who the candidates may be. Newsom, then, twice has won over almost every potential swing voter.


        That has him looking as safe as any incumbent governor of California ever has, despite a mid-February drop in his job approval ratings. Newsom’s winning vote percentages easily exceed any rung up by ex-Gov. Jerry Brown, who four times won easily.


        Now focus on the next election beyond this fall, the 2024 race for president. You can bet that despite denials, part of Newsom’s mind is already there.


        That run in some ways figures to be the reverse of this year’s California campaign. While Republicans have no significant “bench” in this state, national Democrats are in a similar predicament. Newsom stands alone as about the only politician who could change their situation.


        Look what Democrats have available: There’s a seriously aging Biden, who says he will run two years from now, but appears – with his mincing walk – like he might not be physically able. Behind him is Vice President Kamala Harris, whose approval rating at the end of last year was just 28 percent, the worst ever for a vice president. Harris was so bad a presidential primary candidate in 2020 that she had to drop out before even one primary or caucus ballot was cast.


        Behind them stands, who? Not New York Sen. Chuck Shumer, the Senate’s most prominent Democrat, but one with little appeal outside his own state. Not Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders, who has failed in two determined runs, and by large margins.


        By contrast, Republicans not only have ex-President Donald Trump, who says he will run and stages rallies around the country, even if they no longer draw full houses. If Trump self-destructs, as he may have started doing by praising Russian President Vladimir Putin as “genius” and “smart” after he invaded Ukraine, they also have two big-state governors visibly eager to run. Those are Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Gregg Abbott of Texas, neither of whom is likely to run if Trump does. There’s also former Vice President Mike Pence, hated by Trump because he refused to interfere illegally with the 2021 transition of power to Biden.


        Polls indicate that if Democrats match either Biden or Harris against any of these folks, they stand a good chance of losing. But Newsom could be a different matter.


        He would come to the Democratic primary season with a major base of California support that guarantees him a respectable number of delegates at the Democratic nominating convention.


        Plus, he is now a seasoned campaigner, performing in a relaxed and confident manner when threatened with a recall amid a loud campaign led by opponents of how he handled the coronavirus pandemic.


        His recall margin indicates the vast majority of adults living under the rules Newsom set approved what he did.


        But does Newsom want the job, for which his fellow Democrats may need him to run? He’s sometimes seemed bored with governing lately, as when he left on a book tour while Californians dealt with a well-publicized crime wave late last fall.


        The bottom line: If Newsom is the most the Democrats have, he will run, and likely run strongly.


    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






     It was a gutsy call when Gov. Gavin Newsom in late February suggested a gas tax holiday. That kind of move has been anathema for California governors since the 2003 recall of Democrat Gray Davis in favor of movie muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger.


        Schwarzenegger made hay on the false assertion that Davis added a new gas tax that year, even though all he really did was restore a levy he previously put on pause for more than a year.


        It became Schwarzenegger’s key issue during that campaign, and it worked. No one remembered that Davis saved millions of people hundreds of dollars each over the preceding year. All they noticed was that they were paying more at the pump.


        Now comes Newsom, not exactly calling for a tax reduction. He recommends putting in abeyance indefinitely a 51-cent gas tax increase scheduled to take effect this summer. He has to know there will come a time when the state will need that money and either he or a subsequent governor will have to let the tax hike take hold.


        He knows this could lead to a second recall against him even if his likely reelection this fall goes smoothly.


        While Newsom acts unfazed about that possible outcome, Sacramento’s other two top leaders hesitate to give Californians this little bit of inflation relief.


        In a joint appearance before the Sacramento Press Club, both state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and state Senate President Toni Atkins expressed misgivings.


        Both said they think not charging the new tax, mandated by a years-old law, could cost jobs by reducing funds for transit operations, road maintenance and highway construction.


        Said Rendon, “I think that’s something that could potentially jeopardize a tremendous amount of jobs…it could inhibit economic growth in certain sectors in this state.”


        He and Atkins showed most concern about effects on members of building trades unions, outfits among the leading backers of Democratic legislative campaigns.


        But there’s no reality to this worry, and they both know it. The approximately $500 million a one-year gas tax holiday would cost can easily be made up by tapping California’s current huge budget surplus.


        Said Senate Republican leader Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita, “Democrats are tone deaf if they think people don’t need a break at the pump.” In fact, California gas prices in late February averaged $4.82, highest in the nation. In some places, posted prices climbed well over the $5 landmark.


        Wilk is correct. There’s no doubt the state can afford to give drivers – most Californians – a break when it is spending billions of dollars on the homeless, a highly visible but actually tiny portion of the populace.       


        This is especially true now, when some legislators are actively considering a proposed new tax on the stuff owned by – not the incomes of -- persons with assets valued at more than $50 million.


        Even if they are not producing income, say these ultra-liberal Democratic lawmakers, those assets further the passing on of generational wealth and passively but steadily add value. Assets involved include homes and stocks that pay no dividends, but consistently gain market value.


        The measure is sponsored by Assemblyman Alex Lee of San Jose, who aims at the 15,000-plus wealthiest folks in California. He would tax anyone with a net worth over $50 million at 1 percent and apply a $1.5 percent levy on those with more than $1 billion in net assets.


        “We want the obscenely ultra-rich to be paying their fair share,” Lee told a reporter.


        This, he says, would add about $22 billion to the revenues of a state which already sports a budget surplus almost double that amount, with legislators unsure what to do with all the money at their fingertips. The asset taxation plan, novel except in the property tax realm, would need voter approval to be effective even in the unlikely event legislators pass it.


        This is but one example of the kind of funding source the state could tap to replace any gas taxes it forgives. Which is just one more reason why it’s a good idea to give average people a break right now at a very visible place, the gas pump.

    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


Friday, February 18, 2022






        Life after the Spanish flu pandemic that killed tens of millions in the late teens and early ‘20s of the last century was never quite the same as before.


        Some public health measures, like mass vaccinations, became normalized. New health and cleanliness standards were imposed on restaurants and other businesses. So it would be grossly unrealistic to expect no changes as the COVID-19 pandemic that has plagued the last two years shifts gradually to an endemic ailment that we deal with regularly and not with crash programs and emergency tactics.


        One change that figures to be permanent is the relocation of millions of workers, in California and elsewhere, away from office buildings and into home offices. That has already opened up billions of square feet of vacant office space that could be turned into housing far more quickly and economically than new construction.


        So the solution to both homelessness and the shortage of affordable housing is upon us and beginning to happen, even if Gov. Gavin Newsom and a California Legislature largely funded by developers studiously ignores it.


        Another likely permanent change: Even though it won’t be compulsory in many places, count on grocery stores, gyms, theaters and other privately owned public places to require or recommend that the unvaccinated populace (at least) wear masks for the indefinite future, with the most health-conscious among us gladly going along.


        State, county and city masking requirements have already been eliminated or eased considerably, partly the indirect consequence of Newsom and Mayors Eric Garcetti and London Breed of Los Angeles and San Francisco getting videotaped maskless in a skybox during a January professional football playoff game in Inglewood.


        Expect masking in schools to disappear gradually, and figure on vaccinations remaining a major political issue. They already were before Covid appeared;  the virus accentuated the conflict as millions claimed enforced vaccinations infringe on basic freedoms.


        Those who make those claims, of course, are essentially saying they have the right to infect everyone around them for the sake of their own momentary comfort, as Covid can be passed on even by persons who exhibit no symptoms of the disease. If anyone dies as a consequence of their refusals – and many already have – that makes some refusers little more than premeditated murderers, as by now most know the possible consequences of their failure to mask or vaxx.


        All this has led to a vast expansion of the anti-vaccination movement which opposed compulsory inoculations of schoolchildren long before anyone heard of the coronavirus or its Greek-lettered variants like Delta and Omicron.


        So it’s highly likely California will for the foreseeable future be a vaccine battleground even more intense than it was before the pandemic.


        At that time, all the way back in 2019, anti-vaccine protesters were being arrested regularly for various forms of disorderly conduct and some even assaulted a state legislator.


        That was Democratic state Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento, who authored two state laws that make it far more difficult for anti-vaxxers to claim religious-belief exemptions to shoehorn their children into schools, public and private, without getting shots protecting against threats like smallpox, rubella and whooping cough.


        Pan was beaten up while walking on a sidewalk in his own district, not far from the state Capitol.


        Undeterred, Pan – also a pediatrician – now is sponsoring a bill to add Covid immunizations to the list required before kids can attend school.


        “The vaccination requirement is a cornerstone to keeping schools open and safe,” Pan told a reporter. “This vaccine has proven to be safe and effective.”


        Pan also authored a bill clamping down on doctors who made a cottage industry of providing medical excuses for children of anti-vaxxers, often without actually seeing the kids involved. It’s likely only a matter of time before he or others promote and pass a bill tightening up on Internet clergy who now sell religious-exemption statements against Covid inoculations to ani-vaxx parents and public employees they’ve never met.


        All of which means some of the pandemic’s changes, including several that have not yet completely played out, will become permanent, while others will remain matters of fiery dispute for years to come.


    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







        For decades, it’s been a truism of California life and politics: The more development pushes out into formerly wild lands, the more damaging the forest and brush fires that follow.   


        This has played out to the tune of tens of billions of dollars in damage and more than 100 lives lost over the last five years, with fire after fire destroying homes and cutting off escape routes.


        But still, development continued virtually unabated. Until early this year, when a judge in sparsely populated Lake County said “No!” to a 16,000-acre luxury mixed use project on land partly singed by past fires and partly deemed likely to flare up in future ones.


        Most seriously, Lake County Superior Court Judge J. David Markham wrote in his landmark ruling, the development could close off or overcrowd fire evacuation routes, dooming many to death, as happened during the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County.


        Markham also noted that parts of the land involved in the putative Maha Guenoc Valley project have burned in 1952, 1953, 1963, 1976, 1980, 1996, 2006, 2014, 2015 and 2018.


        It’s hardly surprising that such a landmark ruling comes in Lake County, which since 2012 has been victimized by the Cache Fire, the Clearlake Fire, the Ranch Fire portion of the Mendocino Complex, the Jerusalem Fire, the Pawnee Fire, the Valley Fire, the LNU Lightning Complex Fire and the August Complex Fire, which covered 1.032 million acres by itself in Lake, Glenn, Mendocino, Tehama, Trinity and Shasta counties after originating as 38 separate blazes.


        The judge ruled in a lawsuit brought by state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta and several environmental groups claiming the project could prove disastrous to both its own future residents and guests but also to present area residents.


        So Lake County and the developer are back to Square 1. This project won’t happen unless it is reduced, with major design changes and perhaps more roads.


        Other judges had previously struck down smaller developments in both San Diego and Los Angeles counties due to fire risks, but the likelihood is that they will ultimately proceed, with a few changes. The fate of the Lake County project is less certain.


        What is certain is that every time a major fire burns hundreds or thousands of homes, California’s serious housing shortage gets worse.


        But state legislators don’t even try to be innovative or forward looking about this. Their steady answer for housing problems: More new development.


        That was the thinking behind last year’s SB 9 and SB 10, which all but eliminated single family zoning. They are now law, allowing virtually every current one-house lot to be split, with six new units replacing today’s one. But those new laws require no new parking, no new water supplies, no new school buildings, no traffic mitigation – none of the measures developers of new tracts have had to provide over the last few decades.


        The only way to keep these laws allowing massive amounts of piecemeal new housing from becoming permanent is to qualify a currently circulating ballot initiative for the November ballot and pass it, thus returning local land use decisions to locally elected city councils and county supervisors.


        State lawmakers, many of whose campaigns are funded in large part by developers, assiduously ignore the fast-expanding vacancies in office buildings all around the state. These are created when white collar workers at law firms, insurance companies, stock brokerages and many other concerns shift to working at home, as happened en masse when the coronavirus pandemic began two years ago.


        Now a huge part of California’s work force says it will continue working at home indefinitely, and major companies from Google to Twitter to Hulu are saying OK. Meetings and conversations happen virtually, and employers say efficiency has not suffered much, if at all.


        Some conversion of the office space left vacant by all this has already begun. But it needs to happen on a much larger scale if it’s to put a real dent in the housing problem.


        Maybe, just maybe, the increasing difficulty of building near the convergence of wildland and urban sprawl will force legislators to make OKs automatic for the much less expensive conversions, even if that mean less profit for their developer patrons.


    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, February 14, 2022







        The governors make it sound almost like an advance presidential debate, Florida vs. California, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis vs. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.


        This argument is all about the merits of how the two men, both up for reelection this year and each the almost absolute boss of his state’s response to the coronavirus, have handled the pandemic from its inception about two years ago.


        Thundered DeSantis, who will have serious Democratic competition this fall, “Across the nation (he means California), we see students denied an education due to reckless, politically motivated school closures, workers denied employment due to heavy-handed mandates and Americans denied freedoms due to a coercive biomedical apparatus.”


        Responded Newsom, “With respect, we’d have 40,000 more Californians dead if we took (the DeSantis) approach…I do not look for inspiration to that particular governor.”


        It sure sounds like these two are running against each other. But as they each without doubt contemplate running for president, both have big obstacles blocking the way in their own party.


For DeSantis, it is ex-President Donald Trump, to whom he shows almost blind deference. For Newsom, it’s the sitting president, Joseph Biden, plus his vice president, former California Sen. Kamala Harris. Newsom and Harris both began as proteges of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and have so far managed to avoid opposing each other’s ambitions. It’s anyone’s guess how long that can continue since both Newsom and Harris evince every sign of wanting America’s top political job.


But if we imagine for a moment we can see ahead to a time when the obstacles have disappeared and DeSantis and Newsom essentially share the battlefield, it’s useful to look at their respective claims.


        There is a strong mathematical argument for Newsom’s claim that his tactics of shutdowns and widespread mandatory vaccinations have saved 40,000 lives compared to what would have happened had California followed the Florida path of open stores, offices and businesses, with little mandatory masking or vaccination.


        Start with basic population numbers. At year’s end, Florida had 21.7 million people and California 39.2 million. That means California has 1.8 times the population of Florida.


        Florida in early February had seen 5.04 million cases of COVID-19 and its variants, California 6.87 million. So Florida has had proportionately far more cases than California. Florida had seen 63,158 deaths to California’s 77,966. If you did the math, you would see that if California had followed the same tactics as Florida, it would likely have 113,684 coronavirus deaths. That’s a difference of 35,718, only slightly fewer than Newsom said.


        But DeSantis would argue that many of those extra dead would have come from among the very frail denizens of nursing homes before vaccinations became almost universal in assisted living facilities. Most of them, this argument goes, would not have lived much longer anyhow, so Florida’s lack of strong action didn’t really do much harm.


        You might get a different sense from the families of those nursing home patients.


        But no matter. The differences between the Newsom and DeSantis approaches continue steadily and could presage future debates between them – if the Republican Party lets its presidential candidates continue the quadrennial debates that have been a key feature of American politics since 1960.


        DeSantis in mid-January deplored “authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions” due to the virus, Newsom at almost the same moment requested a budget allocation of $2.7 billion to expand testing, boost hospital staffing and give workers more paid leave when sick.


        It’s a direct contrast of government action and control vs. a laissez faire version of almost complete freedom of choice. That would make for a classic presidential race.


        In fact, if the race becomes a Biden rematch with Donald Trump, that could likely also be a major theme.


        No one can precisely project the future, but folks who like to fantasize about it and read tea leaves indicating what may be ahead can heartily thank both Newsom and DeSantis for providing a possible look ahead.



    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 official results of more than a year of full- and part-time Zoom learning are in, and the practice that became almost universal for schoolchildren in 2020 has gotten its final grade: F for flop.


        Here are a few of the most salient facts that emerge from state data on student performance in the 2020-21 school year that ended last June:


        Less than 25 percent of California students took standardized tests in 2021, one result of the disengagement brought on by scarcity of in-person teaching. Graduation rates dropped by 1 percent, with Latinos almost doubling the overall drop and Black student graduation rates falling four times that much. By the end of the last school year, only 83.6 percent of students who started high school four years earlier were able to get diplomas. And the younger students were, the worse they fared with Zoom.


        Some realities of Zoom learning, mostly done via laptop computers passed out by schools, were obvious long before the figures were in.


        Students were less involved than when taught in person. They could simply walk away from their computers and not participate in classes, and in millions of cases there would be no one present to steer them back. Kids could eat all they wanted during class and phones would ring, too, distracting them further.


        The results of all this were seen in student performances on standardized tests. After five years of steady improvement, test scores declined for the least privileged groups of students, mainly Blacks and Latinos.


        These were the conclusions of the Smarter Balanced assessment test scores, even though so many fewer students actually took the tests in 2021. They were canceled in 2020. The small turnout for the tests probably indicates that only the most involved pupils were included – and scores dropped even for them.


        English language arts results fell by 4 percent from 2019 to 2021, with just 48 percent meeting or exceeding national standards (another term for passing the test), and by 5 percent in math, with just 33 percent meeting or exceeding standards, compared with 38 percent two years earlier – already a lousy performance.


        Pass rates fell by 12 percent in math and 6 percent in English language arts testing.  The drops were much sharper for Latinos (22 percent in math, 10 percent in English) and almost as bad for Blacks (down 9 percent in math and 7 percent in English).


        In short, Zoom – or distance – learning proved disastrous to the students it was aimed to keep involved through the worst times of the pandemic.


        So California’s public schools, already considered a disgrace by many parents and others, grew far worse when students couldn’t attend them in person.


        And that was just for kids who can speak English proficiently. For the state’s approximately 1.1 million English learners, matters went from bad to worse. Their performance drops were even greater than the overall results for ethnic minorities overall.


        All this appalls adults who work to improve the futures of today’s schoolkids. “(This) has the potential to have life-altering impacts, especially for our youngest (students),” Samantha Tran, managing director for education policy for the Children Now advocacy group, told a reporter.


        State officials tried to downplay the disastrous results. The kids taking the tests, they said, might not have been representative of all California students. In a normal year, they pointed out, 95 percent of all students must take these tests, but only about one-fourth that number actually did last year.


        But this reality indicates the real scores, had the usual number of students been tested, would have been far worse than what was recorded.


        For by their very presence, those participating were selecting themselves as more interested than others. And the more interested kids are in school, the better they usually test.


        The bottom line is that despite legitimate worries about contagion, schools must stay open if at all possible, or the future of their students – and all California – will be seriously at risk.

    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, February 7, 2022








        The lines between American citizens and immigrants who live here, legally or not, have just gotten more blurred.


        As a result, it’s logical to wonder if much incentive remains for non-citizens to go to the trouble and expense of upgrading their status.


For those who want all immigrants to enjoy all the rights of citizens, the early part of this year has been a banner time.


During the year’s first week, just after Eric Adams swore his oath and became New York’s new mayor, he endorsed a local measure letting non-citizens vote in all New York City elections.


Adams opposed this change during his election campaign, and did not sign it into law, but rather let it automatically take effect when he declined to veto it.


Just a few days later, California Gov. Gavin Newsom took a big move toward installing government-paid health care as an entitlement for everyone living in California, no matter their immigration or economic status. He did this by including more than $2 billion in his proposed new state budget to expand the state’s Medi-Cal health insurance system for the poor to cover undocumented immigrants between ages 26 and 50. Medi-Cal previously covered all other low-income persons living in this state. Newsom’s move would help about 700,000 of the current uninsured.


Medi-Cal covers about one-third of all Californians, the rest required to purchase other types of health insurance or risk not getting needed treatments.


 Newsom sees his latest proposal as a step on the path toward single-payer health insurance, where everyone in California would be covered by a state plan roughly equivalent to federal Medicare insurance.


 It’s all part of a trend that started about 20 years ago, when Chicago and a few cities in Maryland began letting non-citizens vote.


        The rationale all along has been that non-citizens, regardless of their legal immigration status, are part of the fabric of the communities where they live.


        As Adams put in on his inauguration day, “I believe that all New Yorkers should have a say in their government…I look forward to bringing millions more into the democratic process.”


        California has been dipping toes into this movement for the last 10 years. In almost every session of the Legislature during that time, Democratic lawmakers have advanced bills allowing non-citizens to vote in all local elections.


        Those proposals have not passed. But school boards in both San Francisco and Los Angeles took up the idea, and it actually passed as the local San Francisco ballot Proposition N in 2016. The measure allows non-citizen parents of students in the local school district to vote in school board elections, but no others.


        So far, no non-citizens have been permitted to vote in presidential or other federal and statewide elections since 1926, when Arkansas became the last state to ban the practice during a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment.


        For non-citizens to begin voting in Los Angeles – where the school board proposed the idea three years ago – or any other California city, a local ballot measure must pass. So far, none has appeared outside San Francisco, in part because of preoccupation with the coronavirus and efforts to keep schools open even as it rages.

        One positive motive behind the moves in California seems simple: Backers believe that involving more parents in decisions about their kids’ schools might improve student performances. For sure, improvement is needed, especially after standardized test scores tanked during the 2020-21 academic year dominated by distance learning via Zoom and other remote learning programs.


        But officials and voters ought to think hard about all this. For widespread non-citizen voting would remove one more distinction between citizens and non-citizens, eliminating yet another motive for achieving citizenship, just seven years after illegal immigrants became eligible for California driver licenses.


        And anything that removes incentive to seek citizenship ultimately hinders both assimilating immigrants and helping them advance, because citizenship remains necessary for holding many jobs and to move forward in American society.



    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







     At the very moment when Gov. Gavin Newsom and his appointed attorney general, Rob Bonta, were talking tough on crime just after last fall’s wave of smash-and-grab burglaries, an influential new state panel was plumping hard to soften California’s signature law for getting tough on career criminals.


        The first-in-the-nation “three strikes and you’re out” law – passed with 72 percent approval as a ballot initiative in 1994 – demands life in prison without possibility of parole for convicted murderers. This does little to improve public safety, said the new Committee on Revision of the Penal Code. It also drives up the prison population and taxpayer costs, but has not quelled crime, the group contended.


        The committee’s recommendations stand a decent chance of becoming law as part of the state’s decade-long effort to cut down the number of convicts it houses.


        The panel of five Newsom appointees and two legislators recommends repealing three-strikes, despite the huge public vote for it and the fact there is no evidence the sentiment behind that vote has ebbed.


        Recognizing the law itself cannot be repealed without another statewide vote, the group instead suggested several alterations possible without consulting voters.


        If that happens, it would be yet another example of the Legislature trying to circumvent the plainly expressed will of the voters. Other attempts in recent years have included efforts to get around public votes against statewide rent control and for retention of the cash bail system in state courts.


        This time, the panel suggests, legislators ought to rewrite three-strikes, which requires a sentence of 25 years to life imprisonment for anyone convicted of a third felony after two serious or violent crimes. The law now doubles terms for “two-strikers,” criminals with a past serious or violent felony conviction later found guilty of a second such offense.


        Crimes committed when those convicted were juveniles should no longer be counted as “strikes,” the panel recommends. The group also suggested counting as strikes only felonies committed in the past five years – even if the criminal spent that time in prison, where committing such an offense is almost impossible.


        “Many of these people didn’t have a violent crime – maybe forging a check or drug use years back,” said ultra-liberal Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, a panel member. She suggested to a reporter that even if the public still supports severe penalties, “it’s important to have this conversation so we can see if our thinking has changed. If we can see this didn’t work as intended, we have the right to change it.”


        Supporters of three-strikes called the panel’s report “a complete farce.” Said Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys of Los Angeles County, “They’re trying … to make the worst killers eligible for parole.”


Paraphrasing former Gov. Jerry Brown, who repeatedly reversed proposed releases for members of the violently perverse and murderous Charles Manson “Family,” she said, “Aren’t there some crimes that are unforgivable?”


Still, the Newsom-dominated commission said California’s most punitive laws have not worked. Prisons remain overcrowded, the panel lamented, while severe sentencing has not greatly affected crime rates.


The group pointedly did not address the alleged effects of the 2014 Proposition 47, which removes any theft or burglary amounting to less than $950 from the felony realm. In fact, serious crime rates dropped for years after three-strikes became law, but began rising again after 2014.


Several sheriffs and police chiefs around the state blame Prop. 47’s limits for the rash of smash-and-grab crimes late last year. Others blast the book-and-release policies for misdemeanor suspects promoted by leftist district attorneys like Chesa Boudin of San Francisco and George Gascon of Los Angeles County.


The fact the new report comes from a panel composed of Newsom appointees and some of the Legislature’s most liberal members causes some to question the sincerity of anti-crime rhetoric delivered by Newsom and Bonta just after the spate of smash-and-grabs.


        That skepticism gets substance from the fact that most Newsom appointees – even to statutorily independent agencies like the Public Utilities Commission – consistently look to him and his leading aides for guidance on key decisions. There is no reason to believe this committee is different.



    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