Exhaust is what was emanating from the idling 3 ton SUV bearing state license plates sitting at the curb outside the Griffith Observatory. The parked vehicle’s engine continued to run for over an hour, according to news reports.
Inside the observatory, overlooking downtown Los Angeles, a ceremonial signing of major legislation was taking place. Amidst self-congratulation by members of the political class in attendance, Governor Brown added his signature to legislation mandating that half of California’s energy come from renewable sources within 15 years.
The bill by Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, originally contained language requiring a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use by 2030. This draconian feature contained no specific formula for reducing gasoline use, leaving it up to the unelected California Air Resources Board (CARB) to implement restrictions that could have included massive fees, gas rationing or driving restrictions. Moderate Democrats and Republicans united in opposition to adding to the burden on working families already paying the highest gas prices in the nation, and de Leon was compelled to remove the restrictions on petroleum use.
Brown has blamed lobbying by the oil companies – not the thousands of angry constituents who called their representatives — for the Legislature’s failure to cut back gasoline use and he has promised to implement the restrictions using CARB, whose 12 members are appointed by the governor. (Just approved legislation will allow the Legislature to approve two members.) This approach of going around lawmakers, who represent the people of California, is reminiscent of President Obama’s using executive orders to circumvent Congress in order to make changes to the Affordable Care Act and to halt enforcement of immigration laws.
Even without the de Leon legislation, the state has the nation’s highest air quality standards and, due to legislation passed in 2006, a third of electricity is required to be provided by renewables by 2020.
The problem remains that California has a weak economy and stringent restrictions on energy production will add to the cost paid by average citizens. Many see this legislation as overly severe and agree with State Senator Jim Nielson who has stated that energy, food and all things that require abundant affordable energy to produce and transport will become more expensive, hurting California families least able to afford it.
Meanwhile, back to the SUV sucking up taxpayer financed gasoline: After chatting with reporters for nearly an hour after the signing ceremony, Senator de Leon entered the vehicle and was driven away. It was a hot day and, no doubt, the senator enjoyed entering an air conditioned interior as he was about to be chauffeured to his next appointment.
Although we didn’t get a close look, it would not surprise us if there were a bumper sticker on the back the senator’s ride that read, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard JarvisTaxpayersAssociation — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.