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Last month I expressed my disappointment that our new Democratic assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (pictured above taking on corruption and injustice in Sacramento) had joined forces with Reefer Madness Republicans and our OTHER “Democrat” Assemblyman Tom Daly to kill the highly reasonable and constructive AB73, which would have “monitored the supply and sales of medical cannabis” in fulfillment of the overwhelming wishes of Californians as expressed in 1996′s Compassionate Use Act.
When I pestered Sharon for that article, she described a vote even slightly helpful to medical marijuana to be a “dangerous vote,” and reckoned she could only afford a certain number of “dangerous votes” before she was seriously risking her re-election next year in her purple district (and probably the Democrats’ 2/3 supermajority.) While we continue to lament her unhelpfulness in the important marijuana civil rights fight, my curiosity was piqued – what are these dangerous votes she has taken, and how dangerous are they really?
So I got together with Sharon at an undisclosed location for coffee, and sure enough, she has taken some brave votes that have put her into the cross-hairs of some of the most powerful political players in the state - votes that the working class and middle-class folks in her district should be proud of, and should repay by pouring out to vote for her again next year. If she really were the weak-kneed Comforter of the Comfortable that passes for a “moderate Democrat” in the OC, her voting record would much more closely resemble that of Tom Daly, which it does not.
Making an Enemy of the California Chamber of Commerce
The biggest most ruthless enemy Sharon has made this year is the California Chamber of Commerce. Now, don’t confuse this group with some down-home convocation looking out for the interests of mom-and-pop small businesses. This behemoth is the lobbying arm of the hugest, wealthiest, and most destructive corporations in and out of the state, the ones who make your hair curl and prefer not to lobby in their own name – your big oil, big tobacco, big pharma, insurance, hospitals, alcohol, Walmart, what have you. And with all their propaganda about jobs, the number one aim of these corporations (who actually ship jobs overseas whenever they can) is to protect and increase the PROFITS of their owners.
What the Chamber does each year is put out a list of what they call “Job Killer” bills, and then put all their limitless resources into defeating the lawmakers who supported those bills (partly thru their “JobsPac” which poured millions into making sure Daly beat the progressive Julio Perez last year.) But these bills are really not job killer bills at all, when you stop and look at most of them – they are bills that these corporate CEO’s feel might eat slightly into their profits – generally either environmental regulations so that you and I can eat, breathe, and drink more safely, and bills to help workers, either their safety or livelihood. But they know that’s a surefire way to scare the public in these times – you might lose your job!
When I look at these so-called “job killer” bills, particularly the three that Sharon has earned the Chamber’s wrath by supporting, I wouldn’t call them “job killers” at all, but “Poverty Killers”…
Job Poverty Killer Vote #1: Minimum Wage Raise
Sharon proudly signed on to Luis Alejo’s AB 10 to raise the state’s minimum wage, which has been stuck at $8 an hour since seven years ago (2008) even though the cost of living has increased greatly, in increments to $8.25 this coming January, $8.75 beginning Jan. 2015, and continuing up through 2018 when it will be $10 an hour. The bill has passed the Assembly (Daly abstaining in case you wondered), is now in the Senate, and if it passes there we hope the Governor will sign it.
For the better part of the century, big business interests who would like to pay their workers as little as possible (I hasten to add that’s not all of them) have insisted that making them raise their wages to something liveable would force them to cut down on their workforce. It’s like a broken record, and the scare tactic works in tough economic times like these – folks get fearful when they hear that there could be even less jobs. But experience, history, studies, have never borne this out – putting more money into workers’ pockets always stimulates the economy and leads to MORE jobs. Raising the minimum wage is NOT a job killer, but a poverty killer! And that’s what Sharon’s busy doing.
Job Poverty Killer Vote #2: “Walmart” Healthcare Bill
Jimmy Gomez’ AB 880 was popularly known as the “Walmart Bill,” as that abusive employer would have been the most prominent corporation to be affected by it. Famously, Walmart is known for its practice of not covering many of its employees’ health insurance costs but encouraging them to instead get on Medi-Cal, forcing you and me to cover them with our taxes. On top of that, one of the flaws of ObamaCare is that it unwittingly encourages employers to change full-time workers to part-time to avoid covering healthcare costs. This is unfair not only to the workers and us taxpayers, but to responsible rival companies like Ralph’s and Rite-Aid who do cover their workers.
AB 880 would have addressed this problem by levying a fine of up to $6000 on employers for each currently full-time employee who is on, or ends up on, MediCal, hence either recouping taxpayer costs, or preferably motivating the companies to do the right thing.
I say “would have” because the bill failed to get the required 2/3 in the assembly, killed by six “business-friendly” DINOs including Tom Daly. Thanks Tom. Now you and I can keep paying the healthcare costs of Walmart employees, while Ralph’s and Rite-Aid have to keep competing on an uneven playing field with Walmart. But Sharon again braved the wrath of the Chamber and the powerful California Restaurants Association to vote aye. This bill was a JOB KILLER, they caterwaul. Hello, how is it a job killer to keep employers from changing full-time workers to part-time? How is it a job-killer to make Walmart insure their employees like so many of their competitors do? They’re still gonna need just as many damn “associates” as they do now!
Job Poverty Killer Vote #3: Enterprise Zone Reform
Enterprise Zones – another big liberal idea that sounded great decades ago and has morphed into an outrageous scam; Thank God Jerry Brown, with the assistance of Sharon, has just killed this obsolete program with his AB 93 – or at least reformed it to the point of unrecognizability. Having cost our treasury (ergo, us taxpayers) $3.6 billion since 1986, what was originally intended as a tax incentive for businesses to create new jobs in distressed areas gradually became a program rewarding big businesses for “churning” temporary workers year after year, and for firing workforces in a non-EZ area to move to a new one where they could rehire a new, cheaper workforce. And the expensive program has been shown to create NO NEW NET JOBS.
This blog looked critically at Enterprise Zones last year, and I told the story of VWR International who’d been in Bay-area Brisbane since the gold rush, how they fired over a hundred long-time, well-paid workers there in 2011 and then moved their operations to inland, enterprise-zone Visalia where they hired the same number of workers at a much lower wage while reaping the big taxpayer-funded rewards for this “job creation.”
But now we can go much more recent and local, with the mass firing and re-hiring (at lower pay) we see the Honda Center enjoying inside Anaheim’s new Enterprise Zone. City staff confirms these re-hirings will qualify the Honda Center for as much as $50 million in EZ tax breaks.
(Adam Ant groupie and Chamber shill Matt Cunningham disputes this fact, and calls us all a bunch of liars. His argument? His evidence? The chairman of the company running the Honda Center put out a press release saying he “never had any intention of utilizing EZ tax credits.” Yeah, right, Matt. Of course he says that right now in the harsh glare of bad publicity. But his company has FOUR YEARS to claim those credits – will they really let those $50 million sit there, when it’s waiting on the table for them? If Mr. Schulman is that bad of a businessman, which I really doubt he is, the shareholders will replace him with someone who WILL grab those millions when the publicity is less intense. Faux-dopey, Adam Ant-loving shill.)
Anyway, the good news is that thanks to Governor Brown’s new Enterprise Zone-reforming AB 93, supported by Sharon Quirk-Silva, [as well as - CREDIT WHERE DUE - Tom Daly and a few Republicans] such abuses of workers and taxpayers will no longer be possible. The new bill “would redirect existing economic development funds, spending $400 million on a sales tax credit to boost manufacturing and biotech research and development, $200 million on updated enterprise zones that provide incentives for hiring the poor and unemployed, and as much as $100 million to reward specific businesses that relocate to California.” Crows the Guv, “This is a big, bipartisan win for California businesses and working people. AB 93 will help grow our economy and create good manufacturing jobs.”
And the Chamber has the STONES to call it a “JOB KILLER” bill? – A bill that stops businesses from churning temporary workers, firing and hiring them at lower wages, and getting rewarded for it? This gets added onto the list of things the Chamber will attack Sharon for next year, as a job-killing wench, but I say that once again, she is up there helping to KILL POVERTY.
Oh, how about … Drivers Licenses for “Illegals?” This perennial Democratic cause, and outrage of the (happily shrinking) anti-immigrant fringe, has been bequeathed from “One-Bill Gil” Cedillo to Salinas’ prolific Luis Alejo, and for the first time, as AB 60, it looks to have a great chance of passing, with bipartisan support and a new Field Poll showing majority public approval for the first time.
The immigrant haters will still bitch and moan about it, and they’ll attack Sharon for “rewarding lawbreaking” (cuz, you know, they’re illegals) – but like so many factions of what passes for the “right” today, they just refuse to deal with living in the real world. Here in the real world, despite immigration from Mexico having zeroed out, we still have millions of “illegals” here, they’re not going anywhere, no Immigration Reform will be coming out of our crippled Congress any time soon, and an estimated two million of them are driving cars and trucks, doing the work they need to do AND WE NEED THEM to do.
And some day you’re going to hit one of them, or one of them will hit you. Don’t you want them to have insurance, to have taken a driving test, don’t you want to know who they really are? Tell you what, if AB60 passes, and some undocumented immigrant gets caught driving without a license or insurance even though they could have gotten it, go ahead and deport them, I won’t squawk. The fact is, these good people are MUCH MORE LIKELY to keep their heads down and follow the law than us smart-ass citizens are.
Quirk-Silva, Skeptic of Taxes and Regulations!
Right now, Sharon (pictured to left keeping both taxes and regulations at bay) is pretty excited about her own bill, AB 1098, which will make the Office of Small Business Advocate commission a study every 5 years on the cost of state regulations on the small business community. The bill passed the Assembly UNANIMOUSLY in May – non-controversial to be sure, but also common-sense and long overdue. Quoth SQS:
“As a legislator who wants to make informed decisions, it’s frustrating to not know how much state regulations are costing the state. Understanding the financial effect of state regulations would help policymakers reduce, or design, more cost-effective regulatory approaches that achieve desired policy objectives while placing less burden on the regulated industries.”
I said, “That kind of reminds me of what my favorite OC Republican, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, has been doing in his town – looking closely at all the burdensome regulations small businesses have to follow, getting rid of some and streamlining others.”
She replied (and all of these conversations are paraphrased by memory) “Yes, I’ve had a couple of very productive meetings with Tom, he’s a real nice guy.” (Or something like that.)
I had written last month, and reminded her of it:
I KNOW what scared Republicans about Sharon’s victory, and the Dems’ achievement of 2/3 in the leg. And it was NOT that Sharon and her party would now clear the way for the regulation and institutionalization of medical marijuana. And it was NOT that Sharon and her party would vote to give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, or further the equality of gays. What every terrified Republican I knew was shrieking last November was “NOW THEY’RE GONNA RAISE OUR TAXES THROUGH THE ROOF!” So my advice to Sharon if she wants to keep her seat, and our supermajority, is just don’t vote to raise taxes. And I’ll be the loudest blogger next year to remind everybody “SHARON QUIRK-SILVA DID NOT VOTE TO RAISE OUR TAXES!”
And Sharon said, “Well, don’t write NEVER.”
“But I USUALLY vote no on new taxes and fees, I always look at them skeptically. Couple of examples: There was a proposed tax on sugary drinks; I understand the health aspects of that, and the precedent of cigarette and alcohol taxes, and I hate sugary drinks myself. And there was a proposed $6 vehicle license fee that would have gone to “active transportation” which I totally support. But I felt those taxes would fall most heavily on the working-class and middle-class people I represent, so I voted no on both of them, and they were both defeated.”
She told me her office has a long list of taxes and fees she’s opposed, and they’re supposed to send me a copy; I will paste it right here when I get it.
Sharon’s likely opponent Young Kim, and Carpetbagging!
At this point, it looks most likely that Sharon’s Republican rival next year will be one Young Kim. An aide and protégé to Congressman Ed Royce, this puts her squarely in the corrupt-insider contingent of the local GOP. Other possible Republican contenders might pop their heads up, but she is mightily funded already, and the OC GOP’s flavor of the decade seems to be Asian Lady.
And according to numerous reports, she’s living up to classical OC GOP hinkiness by repeatedly campaigning on the Federal taxpayer dime, raising funds while being paid to represent Royce, including at events in places like Stanton that are outside Royce’s Congressional district but inside the Assembly district where she wants to beat Sharon. At least, that’s sure what it looks like.
But one thing is for sure, she also carries the OC tradition of being a rootless carpetbagger. Originally a La Habra resident, she told Korea Times that she intended to move to Diamond Bar to run there, but then Mr. Royce convinced her it was a better idea to move to Fullerton to run against Sharon.
Carpetbagging seems to be another thing that especially irks Sharon. “I didn’t like it when Linda Ackerman did it, or Harry Sidhu… I didn’t even approve when my good friend Lorri Galloway did it. I wouldn’t move two blocks to run for office.”
“Well, yeah. I’m two blocks out of Loretta Sanchez’ Congressional district. And if she decided to retire, I wouldn’t run for her seat, because I feel a politician should really be rooted in the place they’re representing.”
“Well, I believe you mean that now, but you shouldn’t say never. What if you had a real good chance, and a thousand people asked you to?”
“No, I wouldn’t move two blocks.”
[Update - Diamond points out that she wouldn't have to MOVE to run for Congress, but I think she's still saying she wouldn't try to represent from even two blocks out of a district.]
We will keep lobbying and pestering Sharon to do the right thing on the marijuana civil rights issue – that is one and probably the only issue her previous opponent, the eccentric conservative Chris Norby, was better than her on. But Young Kim would be bad on everything – she would have voted the wrong way on all the bills listed above AND thrown you in prison for pot. Young Kim would have told you TO YOUR FACE that the above bills were “Job Killer” bills… and then walked across the street to pick up a check from the California Chamber of Commerce.
In short, all you north County folks should vote for Sharon Quirk-Silva next year! Vern out.