California Legislators Violate Our Constitutional Rights

Our constitutional rights are being violated—always in the name of a social good, of course. I’ll focus on four California matters, one of them still under consideration: 1) Gov. Gavin Newsom as monarch; 2) the AB-5 gig law; 3) the Tenants’ Opportunity Purchase Agreement (TOPA); and 4) Measure C.

Gov. Newsom as Monarch

In multiple ways Gov. Newsom has become a monarch -- a benevolent monarch, but a monarch nonetheless. I am amazed at how many aspects of that document the governor has violated. He would of course argue that his acts are for the public good, but he has tossed the Constitution out the window. 

For example, Article 1, Section 8, says that Congress alone has the authority “to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states.” Yet Gov. Newsom has unilaterally shut down varieties of commerce and restricted travel, even excursions from one’s home.  Much of this commerce becomes interstate.

The First Amendment protects “the free exercise” of religion, yet the governor has restricted worshippers from safely attending church.

The First Amendment also enumerates “the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” yet we are told to stay shuttered in our homes.

The Fifth Amendment states that we cannot be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Yet the governor has denied us our jobs, our private incomes, our businesses and workplaces without compensation or due process.

The governor is also mandating “contact tracing,” attempting to identify all the individuals with whom a COVID-19 patient had contact. If tracing is conducted by the government, this would likely violate the Fourth Amendment, which mandates, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” And the search for evidence of contacts in our homes would violate part of the Third Amendment that states, “No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner.” Our homes are our private domain.

Now I know full well that many will defend these constitutional violations by arguing that they were necessary to counter the ravages of COVID-19. But the U.S. Department of Justice has declared that the Constitution contains no “pandemic exception.” Gov. Newsom has clearly violated the Constitution in many ways without, to my knowledge, authority from the courts. He’s been backing off from some of his edicts, but the battle with COVID-19 is far from over. Will he reimpose his edicts? If so, will he seek the authority of the courts? Will he ask the Supreme Court to permit him as governor to violate the Constitution in many ways?

AB-5 Gig Law

This law mandates that independent contractors, such as Uber drivers, be regarded as employees subject to government and union control. Two constitutional rights here are being violated: the right to private contracts and the right to control one’s own property. Article 1, Section 10, mandates that there shall be no “law impairing the obligations of contracts.” If an Uber driver wants to enter into a mutually agreed-upon contract with a passenger, i.e., payment in exchange for transportation, that private contract is protected by the Constitution. The attempt to violate this constitutional agreement is a power grab by the government and unions. In addition, the Uber driver is using his or her automobile to implement the contract. That automobile is private property protected by the Fifth Amendment.

Tenants’ Opportunity Purchase Agreement (TOPA)

This proposed law would tell property owners, especially landlords, that they do not own their buildings free and clear. If a landlord wished to sell the building, he would have to offer the tenants the first right of refusal. So suppose a third party approached a landlord to buy his building. The landlord could not sell it on the spot: first he would have to offer it to any tenants -- in other words, the landlord would not have a right to sell it to whomever he wanted.

The matter could get worse in two ways. First, if the tenant(s) offered a price that the owner rejected, the tenant(s) could appeal to the local government for a resolution. The local government could then set a “fair” price. This means the owner would not have the right to sell at a mutually agreeable price.

Second, the tenants could decide to withhold rent until the owner reduced it or asked a “fair” selling price.

If the landlord then forcibly evicted the tenants, the local TV station and newspaper would show up to report on the cruel eviction. This is precisely what happened in the “Moms 4” case in Oakland, in which the moms claimed they had “a right to housing.” No, the Constitution does not permit them the right to confiscate private property.

Measure C

In 1996 California voters passed Proposition 218, which requires that any local tax increase, by whatever label, must garner two-thirds approval by voters. Last March 3 the County of Alameda declared that a half-percent local sales-tax increase had been approved by the voters, although the margin fell somewhat short of two-thirds. The county was silent on legal matters, apparently believing that this election did not require a two-thirds vote. That is wishful thinking.

The Alameda County Taxpayers’ Association, of which I’m a member, will sue Alameda County in Superior Court for not complying with Proposition 218 and for several other violations of the California Constitution.

I believe it is fair and accurate to say that California is the most socialistic, unconstitutional state in the U. S.  I'm in a position to know. I've lived in six states -- Indiana, Michigan, Virginia, Maine, Texas, and California. And on constitutional matters, I was chief of staff to Chief Justice Warren Burger, and Staff Director of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U. S. Constitution.  Take a look at the 12 ballot proposals for California's November election -- most are characteristically alt-left, violating constitutional rights.

Ronald L. Trowbridge, Ph.D., is a policy fellow at the Independent Institute. He was appointed by President Reagan to the United States Information Agency and later became chief of staff for U.S. Chief Justice Warren Burger.

Our constitutional rights are being violated—always in the name of a social good, of course. I’ll focus on four California matters, one of them still under consideration: 1) Gov. Gavin Newsom as monarch; 2) the AB-5 gig law; 3) the Tenants’ Opportunity Purchase Agreement (TOPA); and 4) Measure C.

Gov. Newsom as Monarch

In multiple ways Gov. Newsom has become a monarch -- a benevolent monarch, but a monarch nonetheless. I am amazed at how many aspects of that document the governor has violated. He would of course argue that his acts are for the public good, but he has tossed the Constitution out the window. 

For example, Article 1, Section 8, says that Congress alone has the authority “to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states.” Yet Gov. Newsom has unilaterally shut down varieties of commerce and restricted travel, even excursions from one’s home.  Much of this commerce becomes interstate.

The First Amendment protects “the free exercise” of religion, yet the governor has restricted worshippers from safely attending church.

The First Amendment also enumerates “the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” yet we are told to stay shuttered in our homes.

The Fifth Amendment states that we cannot be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Yet the governor has denied us our jobs, our private incomes, our businesses and workplaces without compensation or due process.

The governor is also mandating “contact tracing,” attempting to identify all the individuals with whom a COVID-19 patient had contact. If tracing is conducted by the government, this would likely violate the Fourth Amendment, which mandates, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” And the search for evidence of contacts in our homes would violate part of the Third Amendment that states, “No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner.” Our homes are our private domain.

Now I know full well that many will defend these constitutional violations by arguing that they were necessary to counter the ravages of COVID-19. But the U.S. Department of Justice has declared that the Constitution contains no “pandemic exception.” Gov. Newsom has clearly violated the Constitution in many ways without, to my knowledge, authority from the courts. He’s been backing off from some of his edicts, but the battle with COVID-19 is far from over. Will he reimpose his edicts? If so, will he seek the authority of the courts? Will he ask the Supreme Court to permit him as governor to violate the Constitution in many ways?

AB-5 Gig Law

This law mandates that independent contractors, such as Uber drivers, be regarded as employees subject to government and union control. Two constitutional rights here are being violated: the right to private contracts and the right to control one’s own property. Article 1, Section 10, mandates that there shall be no “law impairing the obligations of contracts.” If an Uber driver wants to enter into a mutually agreed-upon contract with a passenger, i.e., payment in exchange for transportation, that private contract is protected by the Constitution. The attempt to violate this constitutional agreement is a power grab by the government and unions. In addition, the Uber driver is using his or her automobile to implement the contract. That automobile is private property protected by the Fifth Amendment.

Tenants’ Opportunity Purchase Agreement (TOPA)

This proposed law would tell property owners, especially landlords, that they do not own their buildings free and clear. If a landlord wished to sell the building, he would have to offer the tenants the first right of refusal. So suppose a third party approached a landlord to buy his building. The landlord could not sell it on the spot: first he would have to offer it to any tenants -- in other words, the landlord would not have a right to sell it to whomever he wanted.

The matter could get worse in two ways. First, if the tenant(s) offered a price that the owner rejected, the tenant(s) could appeal to the local government for a resolution. The local government could then set a “fair” price. This means the owner would not have the right to sell at a mutually agreeable price.

Second, the tenants could decide to withhold rent until the owner reduced it or asked a “fair” selling price.

If the landlord then forcibly evicted the tenants, the local TV station and newspaper would show up to report on the cruel eviction. This is precisely what happened in the “Moms 4” case in Oakland, in which the moms claimed they had “a right to housing.” No, the Constitution does not permit them the right to confiscate private property.

Measure C

In 1996 California voters passed Proposition 218, which requires that any local tax increase, by whatever label, must garner two-thirds approval by voters. Last March 3 the County of Alameda declared that a half-percent local sales-tax increase had been approved by the voters, although the margin fell somewhat short of two-thirds. The county was silent on legal matters, apparently believing that this election did not require a two-thirds vote. That is wishful thinking.

The Alameda County Taxpayers’ Association, of which I’m a member, will sue Alameda County in Superior Court for not complying with Proposition 218 and for several other violations of the California Constitution.

I believe it is fair and accurate to say that California is the most socialistic, unconstitutional state in the U. S.  I'm in a position to know. I've lived in six states -- Indiana, Michigan, Virginia, Maine, Texas, and California. And on constitutional matters, I was chief of staff to Chief Justice Warren Burger, and Staff Director of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U. S. Constitution.  Take a look at the 12 ballot proposals for California's November election -- most are characteristically alt-left, violating constitutional rights.

Ronald L. Trowbridge, Ph.D., is a policy fellow at the Independent Institute. He was appointed by President Reagan to the United States Information Agency and later became chief of staff for U.S. Chief Justice Warren Burger.