How Californians celebrated Independence Day

Americans recently celebrated the Fourth of July, and millions of us commemorated our great nation's unique founding as a bastion of liberty, political defiance, and the rights of the individual.  The diverse states, counties, and municipalities of our federal republic did this in a number of different ways, from public readings of the Declaration of Independence and small-town parades to outdoor concerts and spectacular fireworks displays.

As one might expect, we did things a bit differently here in California.  We "celebrated" freedom by ushering in a handful of restrictive new laws and tax increases that took effect on July 1.  And then, on July 9, just to underscore the insanity in the Golden State, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a measure granting government-subsidized medical benefits to illegal aliens.

California's Senate Bill 1, which was signed into law on April 28, 2017, imposed huge hikes in the motor-vehicle registration fee as well as a series of increases in the gasoline taxes that consumers — whether rich or poor — pay at the pump.  Initially, gas taxes increased by 12 cents per gallon, and then, on July 1, the gas tax increased again by 5.6 cents per gallon.  With California's gas prices more than one dollar above the national average (per gallon), the state's residents are already paying the highest fuel prices in the country.  Shockingly, the average California household will spend almost $1,000 per year on gas taxes alone.

Construction work (and more spending) continues on California's high-speed rail project, which was initially pitched to voters in 2008 as a futuristic transportation panacea that would connect Los Angeles with the Bay Area.  The project has been pared back considerably, however, and will now connect only a 171-mile segment in the San Joaquin Valley.  Despite this, California's quixotic bullet-train quest is now billions of dollars over budget, and eminent domain is still being used to separate hundreds of farmers and business-owners from their land and property — all for a project that may never come to fruition.

Aside from California's sky-high driving and transportation costs, there's also the problem of housing affordability, which has only been exacerbated by various state laws and environmental policies.  The median home price in California skyrocketed to $611,190 as of May, yet starting in 2020, all new homes and low-rise apartment complexes built in the state will be required to have solar panels.  This will be a boon to solar companies, but consumers will have to pay at least $10,000 more for their new homes.

From time to time, even California's government officials recognize the absurdity of what is happening in the state, as if they are merely innocent bystanders.  Gov. Newsom once quipped that "California is infamous for passing things and then waking up and saying, 'What the hell did we just pass?'"  Whether Mr. Newsom's observation invokes feigned surprise or genuine concern, it doesn't seem to matter; Sacramento's appetite for bad policy that is haphazardly cobbled together and signed into law never seems to be reduced.

The blame for what is happening in California cannot be solely placed at the doorstep of the governor's office or state Legislature, however.  With California's schizophrenic governmental hybrid between republicanism and direct democracy, it is often voters themselves who ratify overreaching, unproductive, or asinine new laws that reduce the freedoms of the citizenry.

One such example is Proposition 63, California's new "ammo law," which has just taken effect as of July 1.  The law requires background checks for all purchases of ammunition, with a $1 fee for each transaction.  (Things are not going well so far, with database malfunctions and cancelled transactions across the state.)  This is in addition to outlawing magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.  Coupled with S.B. 1100, which raises the minimum age to buy a rifle or shotgun from 18 to 21, many civil libertarians and concerned citizens argue that state laws have already crossed the line from inconvenience to infringement of a constitutionally protected right.

The state Legislature has certainly been busy over the past few years.  With A.B. 1884, offering plastic straws to customers in restaurants has been banned.  A.B. 3077 forces all children and teenagers under the age of 18 to wear helmets on bikes, scooters, skateboards, and even skates.  And thanks to S.B. 1192, parents can breathe a sigh of relief that the default drink in their children's fast food meals can no longer legally be juice or soda.

Many have observed that the above offenses seem to pale in comparison to some of the more notorious problems that California is facing, involving public health, homelessness, and crime.  Massive wildfires have been started due to homeless encampments and arson.  The homeless population is exploding across the state, from inner cities to wealthy suburbs.  Sidewalk drug use is a common sight in San Francisco and on L.A.'s Skid Row, with discarded hypodermic needles littering some streets.  The medieval disease typhus is now plaguing downtown Los Angeles, and measles outbreaks are common in the San Joaquin Valley.

All of this is happening at a time when California has a $22-billion budget surplus and record tax revenues coming into Sacramento.  There are sufficient resources to enact laws that truly protect the life, liberty, and property of this state's residents.

On Independence Day, most of us just tried to relax and enjoy our remaining freedoms as Californians.  But residents in America's other 49 states should heed the warning of the soon-to-be Democratic frontrunner for 2020, California's own Kamala Harris: "I believe in that old adage that 'as goes California, so goes the country.'"

Americans recently celebrated the Fourth of July, and millions of us commemorated our great nation's unique founding as a bastion of liberty, political defiance, and the rights of the individual.  The diverse states, counties, and municipalities of our federal republic did this in a number of different ways, from public readings of the Declaration of Independence and small-town parades to outdoor concerts and spectacular fireworks displays.

As one might expect, we did things a bit differently here in California.  We "celebrated" freedom by ushering in a handful of restrictive new laws and tax increases that took effect on July 1.  And then, on July 9, just to underscore the insanity in the Golden State, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a measure granting government-subsidized medical benefits to illegal aliens.

California's Senate Bill 1, which was signed into law on April 28, 2017, imposed huge hikes in the motor-vehicle registration fee as well as a series of increases in the gasoline taxes that consumers — whether rich or poor — pay at the pump.  Initially, gas taxes increased by 12 cents per gallon, and then, on July 1, the gas tax increased again by 5.6 cents per gallon.  With California's gas prices more than one dollar above the national average (per gallon), the state's residents are already paying the highest fuel prices in the country.  Shockingly, the average California household will spend almost $1,000 per year on gas taxes alone.

Construction work (and more spending) continues on California's high-speed rail project, which was initially pitched to voters in 2008 as a futuristic transportation panacea that would connect Los Angeles with the Bay Area.  The project has been pared back considerably, however, and will now connect only a 171-mile segment in the San Joaquin Valley.  Despite this, California's quixotic bullet-train quest is now billions of dollars over budget, and eminent domain is still being used to separate hundreds of farmers and business-owners from their land and property — all for a project that may never come to fruition.

Aside from California's sky-high driving and transportation costs, there's also the problem of housing affordability, which has only been exacerbated by various state laws and environmental policies.  The median home price in California skyrocketed to $611,190 as of May, yet starting in 2020, all new homes and low-rise apartment complexes built in the state will be required to have solar panels.  This will be a boon to solar companies, but consumers will have to pay at least $10,000 more for their new homes.

From time to time, even California's government officials recognize the absurdity of what is happening in the state, as if they are merely innocent bystanders.  Gov. Newsom once quipped that "California is infamous for passing things and then waking up and saying, 'What the hell did we just pass?'"  Whether Mr. Newsom's observation invokes feigned surprise or genuine concern, it doesn't seem to matter; Sacramento's appetite for bad policy that is haphazardly cobbled together and signed into law never seems to be reduced.

The blame for what is happening in California cannot be solely placed at the doorstep of the governor's office or state Legislature, however.  With California's schizophrenic governmental hybrid between republicanism and direct democracy, it is often voters themselves who ratify overreaching, unproductive, or asinine new laws that reduce the freedoms of the citizenry.

One such example is Proposition 63, California's new "ammo law," which has just taken effect as of July 1.  The law requires background checks for all purchases of ammunition, with a $1 fee for each transaction.  (Things are not going well so far, with database malfunctions and cancelled transactions across the state.)  This is in addition to outlawing magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.  Coupled with S.B. 1100, which raises the minimum age to buy a rifle or shotgun from 18 to 21, many civil libertarians and concerned citizens argue that state laws have already crossed the line from inconvenience to infringement of a constitutionally protected right.

The state Legislature has certainly been busy over the past few years.  With A.B. 1884, offering plastic straws to customers in restaurants has been banned.  A.B. 3077 forces all children and teenagers under the age of 18 to wear helmets on bikes, scooters, skateboards, and even skates.  And thanks to S.B. 1192, parents can breathe a sigh of relief that the default drink in their children's fast food meals can no longer legally be juice or soda.

Many have observed that the above offenses seem to pale in comparison to some of the more notorious problems that California is facing, involving public health, homelessness, and crime.  Massive wildfires have been started due to homeless encampments and arson.  The homeless population is exploding across the state, from inner cities to wealthy suburbs.  Sidewalk drug use is a common sight in San Francisco and on L.A.'s Skid Row, with discarded hypodermic needles littering some streets.  The medieval disease typhus is now plaguing downtown Los Angeles, and measles outbreaks are common in the San Joaquin Valley.

All of this is happening at a time when California has a $22-billion budget surplus and record tax revenues coming into Sacramento.  There are sufficient resources to enact laws that truly protect the life, liberty, and property of this state's residents.

On Independence Day, most of us just tried to relax and enjoy our remaining freedoms as Californians.  But residents in America's other 49 states should heed the warning of the soon-to-be Democratic frontrunner for 2020, California's own Kamala Harris: "I believe in that old adage that 'as goes California, so goes the country.'"